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Poetry Support at the Ready!

By
Aimee Dolan

We are passionate about poetry and make sure we provide at least one poem in every issue of both Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. Many of you find it essential and use the poems faithfully with every issue. Others provide a more targeted poetry focus as part of test-prep season. And still others teach it seasonally during April's National Poetry Month. However you use our poems, these four simple ideas can be right for any classroom. Enjoy!  

Four amazingly easy ways to use the poems in Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.:  

Idea 1: Create a poetry collection, combining all poems from this year's Storyworks or Storyworks Jr. issues into a booklet as a take-home gift. 

Idea 2: Practice makes perfect with the easy-to-use "Write Your Own Poem" activity that comes with every poem in Storyworks Jr. Using this activity sheet, your students can write their own poems in the style of the poem in that issue. Here's the one for our May/June poem, A Slash of Blue by Emily Dickinson. For Storyworks subscribers, most Storyworks poems come with an activity as well! Check out this one for the March/April poem, Just Before April Came by Carl Sandburg.

Idea 3: Put up all of the poems from this year's issues on your classroom wall and let students vote on their favorite. For a great math extension, you can make a bar graph with the results of the vote.

Idea 4: Get comfy and have a poetry listening day! We include audio for all poems in Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. Listening to them as a class can be a wonderful end of day or transition activity during the last few weeks of National Poetry Month. You can even host a class discussion after each poem.

Teach Earth Day With Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.

By
Anna Starecheski

Earth Day is on April 22nd, and if you're in search of a great lesson, we've got you covered! We've gathered our favorite Earth Day-friendly articles from this years' issues of Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. and have suggested some mini-lessons to go along with them. Happy Earth Day, from us to you!

Storyworks

Should Helium Balloons Be Banned?

In this fun debate from the February 2017 issue, students will learn the surprising ways in which helium balloons are not so environmentally-friendly. But does the fun outweigh the harm? Use this teacher's fun and simple debate lesson plan along with this debate!

Monster Goldfish/Pigs on the Loose

This paired text from the February 2017 issue is sure to blow your students' minds! Two texts explore two unlikely invasive species: goldfish and wild pigs. These stories are exciting to read, while teaching an important lesson about the environment. For a fun extension activity, have students research invasive species in your area. 

Storyworks Jr.

The Girl Who's Saving the Bees

This bite-size nonfiction piece from the October/November 2016 issue covers an incredible kid named Mikaila Ulmer, who was disturbed by the plight of bees in the world today. Mikaila has created a business selling lemonade while raising money and awareness. She uses local honey in her lemonade, and a portion of the profits go to saving the bees. Your students are sure to be inspired by Mikaila's mission! For a learning extension, do some research with your students and find out which local plants in your area are best for bees. You could even plant some at your school! 

The Snake That's Eating Florida

The feature nonfiction from the September 2016 issue is about one of the most well-known and destructive invasive species: the Burmese python. These huge snakes live in the Florida everglades and gobble up everything in their paths. We predict that your students will be fascinated by these slithery creatures. For extra fun, watch this video about invasive species created by our colleagues at Action magazine!

 

Do you have a successful Earth Day lesson we should know about? Tell us about it in the comments below!

A Text Features Game to Boost Engagement

By
Allie Curtis and Shannon Seigler

Editor's note: Superstar coaches, Allie and Shannon, are back with another winner of an activity: Tabletop Twitter! As soon as you tell your students the name of this activity, we predict they'll be excited! This activity has students previewing text features while "tweeting" their thoughts, comments, and questions. It's fun for kids, and gets them thinking about the text before diving in for a first read. Check out how Mrs. Tiffany Spiva's fourth grade superstars rocked this strategy!  Let us know how it works in your classroom!

Tabletop Twitter is a great strategy for getting all students to interact with text and it gives them a chance to share their thoughts about what they've read. It's a different way of getting kids interacting with text and one another, and it gives us insight into how kids are thinking about and looking at text. We like using the strategy with infographics and text features the most because it gives a fun and engaging purpose for looking at text features. The kids love it because the hashtag format is in their comfort zone and makes them feel like what they're doing is "cool," not just "school"!

How to get started: Cut or copy and glue images or short excerpts from your article onto individual large pieces of bulletin board paper or chart paper. Place the pieces of chart paper around the room in separate locations.

How to choose the text/images: The selection of images or excerpts you choose is key to getting the most interaction and reaction from your students. The selection should be something that evokes emotion or thinking from your students so they will be motivated to write down their thoughts, reactions, and questions.We loved using the thought-provoking sidebars, pictures, and captions like this one in the March/April issue of StoryworksThe Amazing History of American Television.

How to introduce the strategy to students: Discuss what we know about “twitter” and how to tweet. Explain the process so students fully understand: They are to write a comment/question in 140 characters or less, using a hashtag symbol (#) when appropriate. Put a 140-character statement on the board so students have a sense of the length. Set a timer for 2 or 3 minutes and let students know when the timer rings the twitter time is up! Remind students: “Writing is right, but talking is taboo!”

How it works: The students will read the excerpt or caption of a picture, then silently “tweet” their thoughts and/or reactions.  The teacher is moving from table to table re-tweeting and/or writing comments or responding to something already written. When the timer goes off, the students move to the next table and repeat until each student has “tweeted” about each excerpt/image. Students read each other’s “tweets” and respond back to each other by posing a question or comment.

The “tweets” will be posted, so after reflection—and any time during the unit study or lesson sequence—students can return and add more thoughts. Consider this low-tech form of social media a perfect way to build a base of knowledge!

Boost Opinion and Persuasive Writing with a Debate

By
Beth Orticelli

Editor's note: We know that kids tend to get very passionate about our debates, and superstar 2nd grade teacher Beth O's students really took it to a whole new level! We love Beth's simple two-day approach to the debate in the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr. It's one that students have strong feelings about: Should You Always Get a Trophy? We hope it will work well in your classroom!

My class loves to debate. After all, who doesn’t love trying to prove their point or get their way, kids and adults alike!  My second graders have been working on Opinion Writing, and I thought that the article, "Should You Always Get a Trophy," would be a subject that they had a lot of background knowledge about and also some strong opinions.

This was a two-day project. On the first day, and before previewing the article, I had students sit (on top of their desks for more exciting and active engagement) and have a whole-class discussion about their experiences with trophies. What kind of sports are you in? Who has received a trophy before? How do you feel when someone else gets a trophy but you don’t? How do you feel when everyone gets a “participation” trophy? Do you think you should get a trophy, even if you’re in last place? Students were encouraged to support their answers using the word "because" to add their thoughts. They even used language like “I respectfully disagree with ____, because...!”  Since most kids have had experience with this, their feelings were so strong about this topic!

Next, students were given a large copy of the article, so that they could take notes that support both sides. Excitement was building, because most students already knew which side they would want to be on for our big debate! They read the article independently, and then shared what they thought they should highlight together.

Next, students wrote their ideas on the Storyworks Jr. printable, What Do You Think, that utilized both text evidence and ideas from their own schema, proving their point for tomorrow’s big debate.

They chose what side they would be on, and we even had a team huddle and cheer as we prepared for Day 2.

After we practiced our debate strategies, we sat on opposite sides of the room. I stressed to the kids that they should not be a “conversation stealer” and try letting all teammates get a chance to share their point of view. They did a great job of using text evidence and their own personal thoughts. I even had class leaders emerge and ask others to step down to let a quiet classmate get a chance to speak!

The team who debated on the side of “everyone gets a trophy” even had nice, shiny trophy props to try to persuade the other side!

Needless to say, these kids had a blast with this debate! Storyworks Jr. debates are a great way to get kids excited about sharing their opinions while also building speaking and listening skills. My kids are so excited to see what the next Storyworks Jr. debate will be!

Using QR Codes to Enforce Vocabulary

By
Thomasine Mastrantoni and Deborah Goldstein, the Link Ladies

Editor's note: Our beloved Link Ladies are back with another super-doable app-style learning activity! We're sure you've seen QR codes everywhere, but if you're anything like us, you may have found them a bit mysterious. Here, the Link Ladies lay out exactly how QR codes work, how you can make them (trust us, it's easy), and why you should use them in your classroom. This activity links QR codes to vocabulary to deepen understanding in a fun way! 

Vocabulary is a great equalizer. One of the best ways to lessen the achievement gap is to increase students' vocabulary. Storyworks does a great job of using bold text to highlight challenging or Tier III vocabulary throughout its nonfiction articles. Front-loading these words will help to increase your student’s comprehension and ability to interact with the text in more complex ways.

The app: Scan

Why we use it: It's an easy way to engage your students in the content before they even see the article. The app is so basic, any student can use it. The website is a simple way to literally link what students know to the text.

Wondering why we should be using QR codes in the classroom? According to BBCActive.com, QR codes can give direct and simultaneous access to all students to the same resource with the scan of your device in school or at home. They can hold over 4,000 characters of information and are easy to create. They can also be printed on just about anything. Whether you are sharing a web address or a hidden answer to a class question, QR codes are fun and engaging to use.

Skill Focus:

  • Vocabulary Development
  • Using Context Clues
  • Comprehension

Time: 1 class period

What you’ll need:

Frontloading Vocabulary: BEFORE you read the articles, pull out the bold vocabulary words (as well as any other words you think your students will need to know to fully understand the text). Here's the bolded vocab: lure, cultural, anchorman, dedicated, diversity, rural.
Assign a group of students "vocabulary duty."  For the first time, we chose our most independent learners. As you do this more often, give each student an opportunity to get the vocabulary words ready for the class. These students will be responsible for looking up the definition of each of the vocabulary words and creating the QR codes for the class to interact with. In 1-2-3, these words will be ready for the class. Here's how it works:

Go to http://www.qrstuff.com/

1. Click on "plain text" on the lefthand side of the page.

2. Type the definition of the vocab word in the box.

3. Click on the color you would like the QR code to be. Your QR code is now created!

4. Save your code by clicking on "Download QR code." When it asks you to open a subscriber account, just click "No thanks."

Congratulations: You just created your own QR code! It will then create a .png file that you can save on your desktop or copy & paste into a Word or Google Doc for later.
Once your students have all the QR codes saved, print them out.

Lesson Ideas:

You can now have students interact with the words using the Scan app (note that any scanner app will work, but we like the simplicity of the Scan app).  
Your options are endless! You can choose a vocabulary activity that your students already know with the twist of getting the meaning from the QR code.  Here are some other ideas on how to get your students to interact with the vocabulary words.

  • Put the vocab word on a strip of paper with the QR code at the end. Example:

  • As the students read the article, they can use the codes to help them define the words.
  • Scanning is as simple as point and shoot:
    • Open up the Scan app on your iPad or smartphone
    • Hold the device so you see a square to capture the code. It will vibrate when it captures it. Then it brings you to the vocabulary word’s meaning.
    • Students continue to scan as they come across the new words.
  • Have students create a sentence using the new word.
  • Have them draw a picture that depicts the word’s meaning.
  • Have them list 3-4 synonyms they already know that have the same meaning as the new vocab word.

Once you see how simple the QR code generator is, you'll want to find more uses for it. We also create a code each month that links to the answers for some of the questions from the Teacher Resource page for the article. This is another way to extend a student’s learning and offers additional engaging activities for each article—especially for those students who routinely finish early and need a challenge.
If you want to try using QR codes (without making them yourself), here are QR codes for each of the vocabulary words in the Paired Texts articles. You will see how “linked” your students get and will surely want to start making them yourself.  (answers to the math homework… answers to the pause and think questions in Storyworks Jr… the audio for each page of a picture book… the ideas will keep coming to you.) Enjoy!

Anchorman:

Cultural:

Dedicated:

Diversity:

Lure:

Rural:

 

Text Marking Word Clouds For Visual Learners

By
Lisa Shumaker

Editor's note: Lisa Shumaker from St. Charles, Illinois, is one of our secret weapons at Storyworks Jr. She is not only tech-savvy, she is a remarkably gifted teacher. We think your students will love this super-simple but high-impact activity to practice main idea and supporting details. Please share how it works in your classroom this spring.

  • Lesson length: 4 Days
  • Grade: 3
  • Text: "How to Save a Baby Elephant" from the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr.
  • Technology: can be as high-tech or low-tech as you want it to be
  • Instruction type: Small group/independent/Partners

Day 1: Pre-Reading

Small group: Begin by introducing key vocabulary in small group by showing students the Vocabulary Slideshow. Have them hunt for the vocabulary words in the text and read them in context to a partner. Next, prompt students to pay close attention to the headline, subhead, and photos on pages 4-5. Ask students to make observations about the photos and draw upon their background knowledge to make predictions about the setting of the story. After that, read through the headings and have students pause to predict what  each section will be about. Finally, set a purpose for reading: “As you go back to your work spaces, listen to the story read aloud and think about how the photographs and images helped you to comprehend the story.”

Independent work: Students go back to their work spaces and complete the vocabulary organizer and watch the video read aloud as their first read.

Day 2: Active Reading

Partner work: In partners, have students complete a “second” read of the text. Have students use text marking to actively engage with the text. Here are the symbols my students use to text mark, courtesy of Upper Elementary Fun:

Set the purpose for reading: “Today as you read the text, use the text marking strategy to practice active reading to enhance your comprehension.” As they read, they should be answering the Pause and Think questions verbally with their partners to monitor comprehension. 

Day 3: Close Read

Small group: To check for comprehension and understanding, have students share their reactions to the text by giving an example of one place in the text they marked and why. Then, establish the purpose of today’s read: “Today when we read, we will be focusing on finding evidence that shows how humans can affect elephants.” Next, conduct a think-aloud by reading the first section of text. “I notice that the authors have used some pretty bold/powerful word choices to describe what poachers do and how they affect elephants.” Model highlighting some of those strong words in the text (ex: killed, illegally, dies, orphans). Inform students that these words help the reader to visualize the negative affect that poachers have on elephants. Have students read through the next section with a partner, reminding them that they are highlighting words that show how poachers affect elephants. Have students share out the words they highlighted.

Partner work: Send pairs of students back to their work spaces to read through the rest of the article highlighting the positive and negative affects humans can have on elephants.

Day 4: Skill Building

Small Group: Begin by setting the purpose for learning: "Today we are going to be working on finding the main idea of this article." Pass out the Main Idea Reading Kit to students. Have students read aloud the definition of main idea provided on the Reading Kit. Next, explain to students that they will be generating word clouds to help them visually represent the main idea of the text. Model for students how to create a word cloud using this website. Have students contribute to the creation of the word cloud by suggesting words that should be included. Below is an example from our lesson:

Lastly, as a small group, use the visual word cloud as an aid to fill in part of the Main Idea Reading Kit. 

Independent Work: Share the link with students so that they can create their own word cloud. Have students import the words they highlighted that show ways humans can positively affect elephants. Students can choose whatever symbol/shape for their word cloud that they feel best represents the main idea of their word cloud.

Have them use their word cloud to independently fill in the remainder of the Reading Kit.

Making Science Connections with Storyworks Jr.

By
Beth Orticelli

Editor's note: See how superstar second-grade teacher Beth O serves up a great curriculum tie-in to her science standards using our Paragraph Power article from the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr. It's about an incredible kid named Khloe, who took initiative to help homeless women in her community. Frankly, we never even thought that it could be connected to science! Take a look at this innovative way to use our Paragraph Power article and see if it can work for you.

As we get busier and busier with new curriculum each year, I am always searching for ways to integrate science and social studies into reading and writing.  One article in the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr. really seemed to tie in to our Next Generation Science Standards for second grade: Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.

I made my reading groups a copy of "This Kid is Changing Her City," so that they could easily take it around the room and talk about matching it up to the Engineering Design Process we are starting to learn about. (We have student-made posters for science around the room.) 

After reading about how Khloe, a 9-year old girl, made a difference in her city and possibly beyond, students were searching for that always-important text evidence that would support how she developed her plan.

They could easily relate to the first step of designing something, which is ASK. They were able to locate the proof they needed that Khloe had noticed a problem with homeless women and then asked her mom how she could help them.

Next, she learned about and MODELED strong fabric bags that would last a long time and hold items like soap and socks.

She was also able to EXPLAIN how homeless people might feel just trying to survive. This happened to be exactly the process that we've been talking about in class when we discuss people who make a difference!

Students were eager to point out that at the end, she EVALUATED her idea, realized it was a success, and now wants to make it even bigger by bringing it to Africa. My kids were inspired to think about how they could make a difference.

The best part is always turning around the teaching, and letting students make their own connections to the design process. With use of schema and text evidence, my little second graders were able to read and search the text for what they needed, and our ELA resource offered up the perfect science lesson.

 

Making Infographics: A New Approach to Reports

Editor's Note: We can always count on superstar teacher Jackie Rabinoff to squeeze every last drop out of her Storyworks subscription, and we love her for it! Her latest lesson takes a new approach to the old-fashioned research report using Storyworks' infographics as mentor texts of sorts. We love this activity because it's research-focused, cooperative, creative, and super-fun! Most importantly, it's simple and doable. Take it away, Jackie!

It is nearly impossible to exhaust all the resources that Storyworks provides. Just when I thought I had examined every nook and cranny of the Storyworks website, I found something new. This time I discovered "Make Your Own Infographic"—a step-by-step activity that will help students craft an infographic about a topic of their choice. It is a reproducible provided every month which can be found with the other Infographic activity sheets. I had been seeking a project that included research and I thought this would be an enjoyable, motivating activity.

First, as a class, we examined many infographics from past issues of Storyworks. I directed the students to take note of what each had in common. I wanted them to notice that these infographics had more pictures than words (hence infographic), were persuasive in nature, and had topics that were unusual yet thought-provoking.

I informed the class they’d be working in groups to design their own infographic. We debated the appropriate group size for this activity and it was decided that three in a group would best fit our needs. I “randomly” clustered them (or so they thought) and it was time to begin. I handed out a brainstorming sheet of open-ended questions I created to help them come up with a topic. I reminded them that our goal was to persuade an audience so the topics needed to be something atypical. I had each group dream up three ideas and label them “first” “second” and “third” choice. I collected the sheets and was able to divide up the choices so each group had different topics.

Next I handed out the “Make Your Own Infographic” worksheet from Storyworks, which served as a step-by-step guide for my students to follow. Using laptops in the classroom and taking several visits to the computer lab, the children conducted research for many days. They gathered as much information as possible before deciding which material would be most suitable for their purposes—something they learned from watching Lauren Tarshis’ behind-the-scenes videos on the Storyworks website! 

After a quest for the perfect accompanying graphics and pictures, the writing and editing process began. Aside from just typical grammar and mechanics, the children had an abundance of practice in summarizing, since they needed to condense information into a small blurb. In addition, the more time spent on the computer, the more adept they became at keyboarding, cutting and pasting, changing font color and size, using spell check, etc…

Lastly, I gave each group a big piece of construction paper and let them create their final product. I displayed the infographics in the hallway and the eye-catching pictures and clever topics caught the attention of all who passed by. Thanks to Storyworks, I now have a cooperative learning, child-centered alternative to the old-fashioned “report.” Take a look at what they came up with below:

An entertaining research project? Sounds like a topic for an infographic!

Use Storyworks to Teach Introduction Writing!

By
Allie Curtis and Shannon Seigler

Editor's note: Safe to say we are smitten with Allie and Shannon, two ELA instructional geniuses from Florida. They blew us away with their first post to the Ideabook, and they've done it again with this simple gem! Here, they use Storyworks as a mentor text to teach students how to write good introductory paragraphs. Don't be intimidated by all the steps: Allie and Shannon have provided an awesome flipchart to accompany the lesson, so a lot of the work is done for you! Try this lesson with your students and let us know how it goes.

What you'll need:

First, download our flipchart by clicking the link above. Then follow our easy steps!

Step 1: (Flipchart pp. 1-3) Display the hook for three Storyworks articles, asking students if they want to find out more about these topics.

Step 2: (Flipchart p. 4) Explain to students that the introduction of a piece of writing must first hook the reader.

Step 3: (Flipchart pp. 5-7) Lead a discussion about the author's choice in the hooks.

Step 4: (Flipchart p. 8) This goes with the "3 Ways to Hook Your Reader" handout. Explain that there are a lot of great ways to hook the reader and we are going to practice three different ways: Start with a shocking statement; Start with a question; Start with an interesting fact.

Step 5: (Flipchart p. 9) Display the Storyworks infographic from the December 2016/January 2017 issue, "Why You Must Learn to Juggle." Point out the wrting prompt. Remind students that before anything is read or written, we always PAT down the prompt!

Step 6: Guide students to PAT down the prompt. 

  • P: inform
  • A: parents
  • T: explain why you want to take an after-school juggling class.

Step 7: (Flipchart p. 10) Before reading the text, restate the prompt: "I should take an after school juggling class." Explain that this is the controlling idea that will be introduced in the first paragraph, but before any writing takes place you have to read the text to determine what evidence will be used to support the controlling idea.

Step 8: (Flipchart p. 10) Read the infographic with students.

Step 9: (Flipchart p. 10) Work with students to determine what evidence should be used while answering the prompt.

Step 10: (Flipchart p. 11) Using the chosen evidence, model how to hook the reader. Model how to write the three different types of hooks discussed.

Step 11: (Flipchart pp. 12-13) Choose a favorite hook and demonstrate how to combine the hook and the controlling idea with a connecting sentence(s) to form an interesting introduction.

This next section of the lesson can be done on the same day or on another day!

Step 12: (Flipchart p. 14) Time for students to practice! Show them the infographic "Our New National Bug: The Spider."

Step 13: (Flipchart p. 14) Remind students to PAT down the prompt!

  • P: explain/inform
  • A: teacher (teacher is the audience if not noted)
  • T: explain why the spider is a great choice for America's national bug.

Step 14: (Flipchart p. 15) Have students rewrite the prompt: The spider is a great choice for America's national bug. Explain that this is the controlling idea that will be introduced in the first paragraph, but before any writing takes place you have to read the text to determine what evidence will be used to support the controlling idea.

Step 15: Assist students in reading the infographic, instructing them to determine what evidence will be used in their writing.

Step 16: (Flipchart p. 16) Using the evidence students have chosen, they should write an example hook for all three types using the "3 Ways to Hook Your Reader" handout.

Step 17: (Flipchart p. 17) After writing hooks, students will then independently choose their favorite lead and will practice combining the hook and the controlling idea with a connecting sentence/sentences to form an interesting introduction. Assist students as needed. This can be done independently or with a partner. Use our handout if you'd like!

Step 18: (Flipchart p. 18) After students write their introduction, students will turn them in to you. You'll display students’ introductions anonymously, one at a time, and have students randomly read introductions. After an introduction is read, students will vote to determine if they “Love it” and want to read more, or would “Leave it” because it needs a stronger, more exciting hook.

Next steps: Teach students how to flip the introduction to create a conclusion.

Introduction: Hook, Connector, Controlling Idea 

Conclusion: Controlling Idea, Connector, Hook (Ending Thought)

Example introduction: I just learned about a brain-boosting skill that could help me prepare for FSA Math. I’m so excited that I can’t wait to get home to tell you all about the brain-boosting skill of juggling. I am going to use my new knowledge about juggling to convince you that I should take an after-school juggling class!

Example conclusion made by flipping introduction: In conclusion, I definitely should take an after-school juggling class. Juggling will give my brain a much needed boost. With this boost, I just know I’m going to ace FSA Math!

Bonus Extension: Our fourth-grade teachers taught this mini-lesson last week. Then, after a close and careful read of "Disaster in Space" from the February 2017 issue of Storyworks, they provided a writing template (download it here to use with your students!) for students to practice the application of writing an introductory paragraph. The kids did great! 

A Creative New Approach to Character!

By
Emily Hayden

Editor's note: Emily Hayden is a Literacy Specialist for students in grades 1-4 in Kenilworth, IL. The Storyworks Ideabook crew were thrilled when she reached out to Lauren Tarshis with such a brilliant, doable point of view lesson. This is the type of email we love getting and sharing - which is exactly why the Storyworks Ideabook was born. Her lesson included everything we love: (1) A simple-to-try idea that can work with many stories, (2) a delightful opportunity for engaging classroom discussion about reading, (3) arts and crafts. Give this one a try with your students and share your point of view ideas in the comments. Thanks Emily! 

The Poisonous Duck from the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Storyworks provided a perfect opportunity to introduce point of view to my third graders. 

In this story, two brothers, Thaddeus and Linus, have a verbal exchange that grabs the reader’s attention and keeps us wondering. Thaddeus, ever the wise trickster, is out to use his advanced vocabulary and wild imagination to convince his gullible brother that there is a poisonous duck at the lake.  Linus tries to work around Thaddeus’s tricks by asking question after question about this so-called poisonous duck, “So what does a poisonous duck look like? How does one tell them apart from ordinary ducks?”  The ending shows how two brothers can spend time verbally duking it out, while still admiring each other’s talents.

Here’s how you can this story to develop understanding of point of view:

I  had the students read the story several times, silently and out loud, taking notes about the language, the characters and the plot. After discussing point of view, as part of a formative assessment, I had them fill out a Character Perspective Chart for Thaddeus and Linus. (See  Shanahan, T. and Shanahan S., Character Perspective Charting: Helping Children to Develop a More Complete Conception of Story, The Reading Teacher, May 1997).

A Character Perspective Chart is actually really easy to create and complete: Just make two columns on a piece of paper, put each character’s name on the top, and then fill add rows for each of the following: Setting, Problem, Goal, Attempt, Outcome, Reaction, Theme.  As the students fill in the information from the story according to each character’s point of view, they begin to see how differently the story plays out, depending on the character.  This is a great opportunity to review plot structure, theme, etc. as well as point of view.  It was a challenging but fun activity for the students, and a great way to see how well they understood the story.

 

Finally, to make use of the students’ visual skills, I had them color in a paper cutout of a human shape, drawing Thaddeus on one side and Linus on the other. Each student then wrote information from the Character Perspective Chart on drawing. They loved using their knowledge of the text to create their own versions of the characters,  as well as adding the information from their chart.

That’s it! Close reading, point of view, and a visual created by each student. Point of view made easy!!