Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sean Bean's Magic Sneakers

  In my lower level 5th grade classes, we learned about the basic elements of storytelling: characters, setting, and plot.  I wanted to learn what these words meant, demonstrate their usage by identifying them in a short story, and begin reading the long story in the book (which will take 2 or 3 classes to complete).

  I began by writing a chart on the board consisting of 3 squares, plot being bigger than characters and setting, and asking them to tell me anything they knew about these words.  Each class had already been exposed to "characters" and was able to express what it meant in terms of story.  When they struggled to explain "setting" and "plot", I wrote the word "what" next to plot and the words "when" and "where" next to setting.  I then told them that each word answers a question and that "characters" answers the question, "who is in the story?"  They were then able to express "setting" and "plot" in their own, full sentences.

  I then made up a very story in each class using one of the students' names.  The stories were easy to understand, contained only one character, and were no more than five sentences long.  In one class, the story was about a boy named Sean Bean who lived on Jupiter 5,000 years ago.  He wanted to play basketball but couldn't jump.  So he made some magic sneakers which helped him jump and he became the greatest baller on his planet.  They were able to identify the elements of this story quite well, the most difficult part being the segmentation of plot developments by significance.  Some of the students were inclined to make a separate plot-development for each little detail of the story whereas I preferred them to understand plot developments  as more significant things which encompass several actions.  I think we'll have to discuss "main idea" in a little more detail to understand this and there will be plenty of opportunities for this while reading this unit's big story in their textbook.

  I then handed out elements of story charts to the students.  These charts were one-page replica's of the chart we made on the board together and I told them that we would be filling in this chart together as we read the story in the text.  We then began reading the story, "Mr. Tanen's Tie Trouble" and I reviewed the word "predict" with them, which we learned last week.  I had them look at the title and the illustration on the title page and make some predictions about the story, rewarding students for explaining why they had come to their conclusions.  After making some predictions, we started reading the story.  I stopped them quite often to check their comprehension with questions.  

  I spent the last five minutes of class filling in the chart on the board as they did the same on their papers - we were able to identify two characters and one or two plot developments in each class.  We only read one-two pages per class of the story today, but we got a lot of the basics covered and will probably be able to read quite a bit more tomorrow.  

  Tomorrow, I'll warm them up by giving them another short story, a little more complicated than today's and displayed on a power-point slide, and asking them to identify the setting, characters, and plot developments.  If all goes well, we should be able to read quite a bit of their story tomorrow.

  I think class went well today, but it was difficult to get some of the students to focus.  Many of them are in the low-level classes because of a lack of motivation rather than a lack of intelligence, so it can be difficult to make the book stories interesting for them.  Still, it wasn't a major problem and I was able to reel them in by watching to makes sure they were actually following the reading, choosing them to lead the class by reading the text, and targeting them with comprehension questions.


  1. It sounds like you are doing very well in engaging these lower level students in this class. It would be very challenging to teach stories at that level and keep interests up. keep it up!

  2. Interesting read. Sounds like you're going to appreciate the few hours we spend on teaching reading... I'm thinking sequencing pictures as they read; guessing answers to pre-reading questions and scanning passages to confirm guesses, that sort of thing.

    Curious how many of your students understood your warm-up Jupiter story if you told it without MIC techniques?

  3. Sorry, I really have been reading and thinking about your comments.. I don't know why it hasn't occurred to me to actually respond to them lol.

    I definitely used some MIC techniques. I rephrased and gestured a bit. For example, when I said ".. but Sean couldn't jump," I did a pathetic little hop to show them that he could, in fact, jump, but not very high. I believe I also gestured when I described the magic jumping shoes.