Unit 6: Lesson 1
Introduce the Unit & Generate Ideas for Writing
By the end of this lesson students will be able to brainstorm ideas for writing by reflecting on their own lives and experiences.
Literacy "I Can" Statements
"I can brainstorm ideas for writing by reflecting on my own life and experiences."
RL 3.1: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
RL 3.3: Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.
RL 3.10: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, at the high end of the grades 2–3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
RL 4.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
RL 4.3: Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).
RL 4.10: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the grades 4–5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
RL 5.1: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
RL 5.3: Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
RL 5.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
RL 5.6: Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.
RL 5.10: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, at the high end of the grades 4–5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Writing & Language
W 3.3a: Establish a situation and introduce a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
W 3.5: With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
W 4.3a: Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
W 4.5: With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
W 5.3a: Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
W 5.5: With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
L 3.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
L 3.2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
L 3.5a: Distinguish the literal and nonliteral meanings of words and phrases in context (e.g., take steps).
L 4.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
L 4.2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
L 5.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
L 5.2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
L 5.5a: Interpret figurative language, including similes and metaphors, in context.
Speaking & Listening
SL 3.1a: Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
SL 3.1b: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
SL 3.1d: Explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.
SL 3.6: Speak in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.
SL 4.1a: Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
SL 4.1b: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.
SL 4.1d: Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.
SL 4.6: Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion); use formal English when appropriate to task and situation.
SL 5.1a: Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
SL 5.1b: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.
SL 5.1d: Review the key ideas expressed and draw conclusions in light of information and knowledge gained from the discussions.
SL 5.6: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to task and situation.
RL 3.2: Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
RL 4.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
RL 5.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
Speaking & Listening
SL 3.1c: Ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others.
SL 3.3: Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.
SL 4.1c: Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.
SL 4.3: Identify the reasons and evidence a speaker provides to support particular points.
SL 5.1c: Pose and respond to specific questions by making comments that contribute to the discussion and elaborate on the remarks of others.
SL 5.3: Summarize the points a speaker makes and explain how each claim is supported by reasons and evidence.
-Writer's Board (See Step 8)
Unit 6 includes the following Life & Learning Skills:
-Critical and analytic thinking
Differentiation Options will appear throughout the unit to suggest ways to scaffold or challenge student learning. Use the number of helping hands to select the level of differentiation that best supports student learning.
Highest level of scaffolding. Select this option if students are learning strategies for the first time, if the text is challenging for them, or if students require more guidance during activities. The Unit is written for the highest level of scaffolding.
Moderate scaffolding. Select this option if students require some support comprehending the text or navigating the activity.
Least amount of scaffolding/Extending the instruction. Select this option if students are ready to work more independently, move more quickly through the material, or are ready for additional challenge.
Key instructional steps where the arts are used to leverage literacy-learning (and vice versa) are marked with . Smaller leveraging moments also occur throughout the lessons.
Process: Start the Authors and Actors unit by talking with students about how real authors write their stories. Then explain the purpose and activities of the unit and hand out the A4L Writer’s Notebook. Walk students through the Unit Overview for Students to help them know where they are in the learning process. Draw students’ attention to the three writing topics and that with each one, they will read real authors’ stories, write, and do theater exercises.
ELL Support: Comprehensible Input
Support ELL language development and comprehension by starting with a short vocabulary lesson using Vocabulary Snapshots to provide multi-sensory pre-learning for words that may be unfamiliar to culturally diverse students. Click for a sample lesson plan
. Vocabulary Snapshots are in the students’ Unit Texts before each reading.
Recommended vocabulary from “Who Did It?” to pre-teach with Vocabulary Snapshots for LESSON 1:
Headlock - Karate
sweep - Propping
See Unit 6 Texts
, (students) and Resources
(teachers) for Lesson 1 Vocabulary Snapshot activities using these visual icons and more.
Step Alternatives: Weaving A4L into my Writing Program
This unit focuses on the following writing objectives:
-Generating ideas for personal narratives
-Strong story beginnings
-Rich descriptions and details throughout
-Strong story endings
These writing objectives were selected because they lend themselves to being leveraged through theater. The unit is not a comprehensive writing program. To meet additional writing targets, it is recommended to pause unit instruction periodically and to weave in mini lessons on sentence structure, grammar, and organization. Look for expanding menus titled Weaving A4L Into My Writing Program for suggested spots to pause and weave in other writing program components.
"We’re beginning a unit called Authors and Actors. In this unit you’ll write about experiences in your own lives using theater and real authors’ stories. You’re going to do just what authors do: play with different topics and do bits of writing around each one. Did you ever wonder where authors get their ideas for stories? They get their ideas from their lives and the people around them. For example, did you know that E.B. White got the idea for Charlotte’s Web from his own farm? He spent lots of time watching his pigs and a spider weaving her web. He spent three years writing parts of the story before he put it all together." (Pass out A4L Writer’s Notebooks.)
"During this unit, we’ll explore three topics (show Unit Overview for Students: A time I broke the rules, A time I lost something special to me, and A time I learned something about friendship.”
"With each one, we will read real authors’ stories, do some writing, and engage in theater exercises. Then you will pick one of the topics to write and publish a whole story. The unit will culminate with a theater presentation of our class’s stories for an audience (school peers, friends, and family). By engaging in this work, you’re going to become authors and actors!"
Process: Give an overview of the lesson objectives. Read a real author’s story and generate ideas using theater on the topic “A time I broke the rules.” The writing students do today is all part of the prewriting phase.
Introducing the Story and Theatrical Exercises
"Today we are going to read a real author’s story and act out a fun theater exercise to brainstorm ideas for our first writing topic, A time I broke the rules."
"By the end of today’s lesson, you will be able to say, 'I can brainstorm ideas for writing by reflecting on my own life and experiences'.”
Process: Lead students in a Word Whip. This is a word association exercise designed to engage students in a concept or topic and/or to reflect on learning. This exercise helps students activate prior knowledge and generate ideas about the topic, “A time I broke the rules,” which is the first topic students will explore in the unit. The Word Whip will focus on the word rules so that students are then ready to think about a time they broke the rules.
During the Word Whip, students stand in a circle and, one at a time, say one word related to a topic the whole class is exploring. To get ready to do the Word Whip, begin with a brief discussion on the topic, “A time I broke the rules.”
Timing for Word Whip is 10 minutes.
Word Whip in this lesson has three parts:
- Speaking a word
- Silently showing a gesture that matches the word
- Combining word and gesture simultaneously
Throughout the unit, students will be transitioning from desks to circles, to open space for movement, and back to desks to write. Embedded in the suggested dialogue are ways to help students remain focused during transitions.
Theater Exercise: Word Whip
Word Whip Definition: A word association exercise designed to engage students in a concept or topic, and/or to reflect on learning.
Connecting Literacy & Art with Word Whip
Word Whip can be used to activate prior knowledge, generate ideas, and build vocabulary through the word choice of others. It allows students to get inside of a word through voice and body.
Teaching Tip: Facilitation Options
-Students stand in a circle and share one at a time.
-Students are anywhere in the room—desks, reading area, open space—and everyone shares all at the same time on the count of three.
-Students are at their desks and share one at a time, visually cued by the teacher.
-Students say one word.
-Students show a gesture without voice.
-Students say one word and show a gesture simultaneously.
-Only the person sharing his or her word speaks; others listen without making comments.
-What a person says needs to make sense only to him or her.
-A person can repeat what other people say.
-A safety word is included in case a person can’t think of anything or doesn’t feel like sharing -the safety word is based on the topic.
ELL Support: Using Word Whip
Before Word Whip
Before students stand in a circle, have three students model the process in front of the class. This will provide concrete modeling for ELL students.
During Word Whip
If students seem unsure of themselves when thinking of words and gestures, ask them to help each other brainstorm before going around the circle in the Word Whip.
-Give students one minute to work with the person next to them to brainstorm a word for the Word Whip topic.
-Give students one minute to work with the person next to them to brainstorm a gesture that matches their Word Whip word.
Transition from Desks to a Circle
"Today we’re going to write about a time you broke the rules. To warm up, we’re going to do a theater exercise about rules. This exercise is called Word Whip. In the same way an author brainstorms ideas, a Word Whip is a fun and active way to start thinking about a topic."
"When I say 'Go,' you’ll have 20 seconds to get into a standing circle, silently and safely. Go! 20–19–18–17–16 ..."
"In a Word Whip, we go around the circle and each person says one word that relates to a topic we’re all thinking about. It’s a Word Whip, which means we go around the circle fast."
"The guidelines for a Word Whip are:
- Only the person sharing their word speaks—everyone else listens without making comments,
- What you say only needs to make sense to you,
- You can repeat what other people say,
- If you can’t think of anything or don’t feel like sharing, you can say the safety word, which is based on the topic we’re exploring."
"Today, we’ll explore the word rules. What are rules? Why do we have rules? What kinds of rules do we have at school? At home? With friends?" (3–4 students respond.)
"Get an idea in your head about rules. Then, think of one word from that idea. The word could be an object, a feeling, a person, a color, etc. It can be anything. There’s no right answer, and it only needs to make sense to you. For example, I might say directions. I selected this word because it is another meaning for rules. Or I might say babysitter because I sometimes broke the rules when my parents went out and we had a babysitter. The safety word is “Rules.” I’ll start. My word is (Share word). What are your words?" (Go around until all students share words.)
"Next, we’ll add a gesture to our Word Whip. A gesture is a physical movement that communicates a feeling or idea." (Model a gesture for your word.)
"The safety gesture is (Show gesture that matches the safety word, “Rules”). You can use the safety gesture if you used the safety word or if you can’t think of a gesture to go with your word. Think of a gesture that goes with the word you shared in our Word Whip. It should be the same word. I’ll start." (Teacher and students share gestures.)
"Finally, we’ll put it all together. Say your word and do your gesture at the same time. Like this. (Model saying word and gesturing simultaneously.) I’ll start." (Teacher and students share word and gesture.)
"The Word Whip ideas we shared in this circle will help us create and develop ideas for writing we will do later."
"When I say 'Go,' you’ll have 20 seconds to return—silently and safely—to your desks, to take out your Unit 6 Texts, and to turn to page 2. I’ll know you’re ready for the next step when you are sitting and frozen as your Word Whip gesture. Go! 20–19–18–17–16 ..."
Process: Introduce Jon Scieszka’s work. Preview Knucklehead by going over the cover and table of contents. Display copies of Scieszka’s books, such as The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.
Inspiring Creative Ideas by Reading
"Writers read lots of books to get ideas and to learn how other authors craft their stories. In this unit, we’re going to read several stories. Today, we’re going to read a story from a book by Jon Scieszka. Scieszka (shesh-ka) sounds like Fresca. Have you heard of Jon Scieszka or read The Stinky Cheese Man or The True Story of the Three Little Pigs? What do you know about these books?" (If students haven’t heard of Scieszka or any of his books, tell them that he writes humorous books.)
"Let’s look at the cover and think about the title Knucklehead. Have you ever heard of this word? What do you think it means?" (If students are not familiar with the word, provide some examples.)
"Now, let’s look at the titles of some of the stories in the table of contents." (Read aloud several titles. Help students get a sense of the collection and tone of the stories.)
"The title of the story I’m going to read aloud today is “Who Did It?” It’s a true story by Jon Scieszka and, like his other books, is likely to be funny. This story is about a time Scieszka broke the rules."
Read aloud the personal narrative “Who Did It?” by John Scieszka. Read the story twice, once using a theater technique called Statues
(see menu below) and a second time with discussion. A statue is a frozen silent picture an actor makes with his or her body to represent a moment in time. Statues may show characters, setting details, emotions, objects, and ideas within a story. In this unit, students make Sitting Statues while sitting at desks, in a circle, or reading area. They make the picture in one spot with the upper parts of their bodies. A sitting statue is an active way to engage students in the story while reading. Actors also make statues with full body.
Theater Technique: Statues
Definition: A statue is a frozen silent picture an actor makes with his or her body to represent a moment in time. Statues may show characters, setting details, emotions, objects, and ideas within a story. In this Unit, actors make “sitting statues” during which they are sitting at desks or in a circle or reading area. They make the picture in one spot with the upper part of their bodies. Actors also make “statues” with full body in open space.
Connecting Literacy & Arts using Statues
-Statues while reading keep students actively engaged in the story.
-Statues can be used to draw students’ attention to specific writing techniques, e.g., story beginnings, descriptions, and story endings.
-Statues are used to generate and refine ideas during the writing process. Creating a statue and then writing words and descriptions that match that statue help students generate content and ideas. During revision, statues help students better articulate their ideas.
Read “Who Did It?” a second time and engage students in a discussion of the content and ideas in the text. Encourage them to express their thinking using evidence from the text and from their own experiences. Help them see the subtleties in the text. Because this is a short story, read it all the way through the second time without stopping. Engage in the Guiding Questions
menu below for personal narratives after the read aloud. Start by exploring the content and ideas and then reading like a writer.
Guiding Questions for the Personal Narrative
The Guiding Questions
are designed for students to reflect on the personal narratives of published authors and to generate their own stories. The Guiding Questions first focus on “content and ideas,” then, “reading like a writer”—analyzing the craft of the author. During each reading, the questions direct students to attend to content and ideas and to the writing techniques targeted in the unit.
Content and Ideas
Questions related to the specific story topic.
Reading Like a Writer
Attending to organization, voice, and word choice:
How did the author grab your attention at the beginning of the story?
Probe: actions, sounds, exclamations, sentence structure variations
What made you want to keep reading the story?
Probe: dialogue, character descriptions, find out the ending
How did the author end the story?
Probe: humor, lesson learned
Why do you think the author chose to write about this event?
"We are going to read the story again, and this time we’ll talk about what you’re thinking and feeling about the story. Follow along in your Unit 6 Texts on page 3. (Read aloud.) I have a few questions that will help you explore the story."
Present Guiding Questions for content and ideas
"Do you think Jon, the author, and Jim knew that they were breaking the rules? What makes you think that?" (Probe for the rule they broke and why they said, "Sure Mom" at the beginning of the story.)
-"What happened when their mom confronted them with the broken couch?" (Help students see the blame game going on with the brothers and what happens when it gets to the youngest.)
-"What do you think about all the brothers in this family—Jon, Jim, Tom, Gregg, Brian, and Jeff?" (Help students see that they all had developed a strategy for passing along blame so they were probably getting into lots of trouble all the time!)
-:Have you ever heard other kids say something like, 'The dog ate my homework'?" (Discuss with students the meaning of the phrase and when people use it, including Jeff in the story.)
-"What would you have done in this situation? Why?"
Present Guiding Questions for reading like a writer
"Now we’ll use some questions to explore ways to read the way writers do. Writers learn a great deal by closely reading and studying the work of other authors. That’s one way they get ideas for writing and crafting their own stories. Now let’s study Jon Scieszka’s story to discover what makes this a strong—or not so strong—personal story." (Students use Unit 6 Texts to reread and identify text to support their answers.)
-"How did the author grab your attention at the beginning of the story?" (Probe for actions, sounds, exclamations, and sentence structure variations.)
-"What made you want to keep reading it?" (Probe for dialogue, character descriptions, plot, and finding out the ending.)
-"How did the author end the story? What do you think made this a strong or weak ending?" (Probe for humor or a lesson learned.)
-"Why do you think the author chose to write about this particular event?" (Probe for authors making critical choices about topics and how they tell the story.)
"Throughout the unit, we’ll use these types of questions every time we read and when we write."
Lead students in a brainstorm to generate ideas on the topic “A time I broke the rules” in their A4L Writer’s Notebooks on page 4
. This writing is designed to build upon the Word Whip exercise to brainstorm a range of memories. Tell students to write or draw about three times they broke the rules.
Finish the brainstorm with a Word-Gesture Whip. Students review their brainstorm and then select and circle one word from one of their memories. This exercise solidifies the exploration of rules and brings students closer to a personal and true event in their lives they may write about. Select one of the Word Whip Facilitation & Variation Options (see menus in Step 3).
"We just read about a time Scieszka broke the rules. We’re going to build upon our Word Whip exercise and brainstorm times you broke the rules. Maybe you got in trouble, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you did it by accident and didn’t mean to break a rule. Write or draw about three times you broke the rules; include details of what happened. Open your A4L Writer’s Notebooks on page 4."
Modeling and facilitating a Word Whip
"Let’s finish our brainstorm with a Word-Gesture Whip. Look at your brainstorm and circle one word from a memory that is powerful for you. Think of a gesture that matches your word. When I count to three, say your word and do your gesture at the same time, like this ..."
"This time we’ll do it together. 1–2–3!" (Whole class does word-gesture at the same time.)
Close the lesson by introducing the Treasure Pile of books
. The treasure pile has books that are personal narratives—or first-person fiction titles if your library collection is limited. Invite students to record lines they like in their A4L Writer’s Notebook or tack them up on the class Writer’s Board (see menu below). Out of School Reading is essential for students to become successful readers. End by looking forward to the next lesson and doing an optional closing ritual.
Prior to the unit, confer with your school librarian about your students’ reading levels and personal interests.
-Collect as many first-person realistic books as possible that are good fits with students’ reading levels and interests.
-Send students whenever possible to the treasure pile to hunt for good examples of writing (e.g., good opening lines, good examples of description, good endings).
-Drop hints and comments aimed at making students curious about these books, and allow students to take them home for outside-of-school reading.
Create a large space on the wall to display student writing. Call this the Writer’s Board and divide the board into the following sections:
-Descriptions & Details
Invite students to tack “writing treasures” on the board—great lines they find in books or from their own writing. Have index cards available to record these treasures.
Extension: Invite students to share positive feedback with peers by posting sticky notes on the board.
Introducing the Treasure Pile of Books
"Of course, Jon Scieszka is just one author we can learn from. There are so many others! We can study only a few authors in this unit, but we can always be on the lookout for other authors who do the kind of writing we want to do. Whenever we find a great line in a book that makes us laugh, cry, see, hear, taste, feel, or just find ourselves dying to read more, we can ask, 'How did the writer do that?' 'How can I write like that?'”
"That’s why we have a Treasure Pile of books that we can use to hunt for great lines from other authors besides the ones we’ll be studying closely."
"When you go home, think about the three memories you brainstormed and one that you might want to write about tomorrow."
Performing the Closing Ritual (Optional)
"To close our theater writing lessons, we’ll appreciate our work and each other with a unified clap. On three, we’ll all clap once and say, 'Huh!' 1–2–3 (clap) Huh!"
CONGRATULATIONS ON COMPLETING LESSON 1! YOU ARE NOW READY TO MOVE ONTO LESSON 2 OF UNIT 6.