Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Setting, Plot, Theme Oh My! and a new FREEBIE

Wow! I can hardly believe this school year is zooming by.  I haven't posted much since the end of November.  December was a whirlwind of mid-year assessments and the holidays.  January has been inconsistent to say the least. Wintry weather has definitely had it's say around here.  I think we finally have gotten back into a routine and are digging in to several different texts.  We are working on comparing and contrasting plot, setting, and theme of two stories with similar characters.
We began by trying to decide if we understood theme.  I introduced theme using a set of theme posters I created a while back. I then asked students to read a passage and then tell me the theme and provide evidence from the text. What we found is that most students could do this if they were referring to the posters, but some students had misconceptions.  We did a few mini lessons on what theme is and why it is not just a list of character traits or just a summary of the story. To help the students pick out theme, I used a set of task cards by Rachel Lynnette.  This gave students several opportunities to practice picking out a theme. After we selected the correct answers, we chose one word to sum up each theme we found in the task cards.  We used those words to create an anchor chart for use with our future readings.

I wasn't quite ready to let the students loose with their own texts just yet.  I felt they needed a little more guidance.  So I chose the following books as two read alouds.

After we read each book aloud, we did a little mind mapping activity where we recorded our thoughts about the setting, plot, and theme of each story.  We then looked back in the text to provide evidence that helped us to determine the theme.

After creating the mind mapping charts, I introduced a new graphic organizer. (FREEBIE can be found here.) I created an anchor chart that matched the graphic organizer and we completed it with our information from the two mind mapping charts we had already created.  This was a very structured, step by step, guided activity. 

We then posted all of our anchor charts in one place in the classroom for student reference.  Now it was time to let the students try the activity own their own.  I selected several sets of books by the same author with similar characters.  I paired students together in groups and allowed them to choose a set of books they were interested in.

Students then set off to find a comfortable place in the classroom to read and work.  They have put a lot of effort into this activity.  We will be rotating the book sets and they will get to practice this skill several times this week.  I love that students will have the opportunity to apply this skill to several different texts!

Here are a few student samples from their first attempt at completing this activity.  I am completely impressed with their work ethic and the amount of evidence they are finding in the text to support their answers!

Stop by my TpT store and download this freebie.  Be sure to drop back in and let me know how this activity worked for your students!

Credits: Rachel Lynette tasks cards (found here).