Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Unforgettable Characters

Even though I have been teaching for 10 years, every year I seem to get amnesia and can't remember certain milestones in our classroom. For some reason I remember these milestones after they happen, year after year I have these "ah-ha moments." The other day I stayed at school and mapped out the next few weeks of objectives and standards I needed to teach. I have to spread my notebooks out over 2 tables, I have a few post-its stuck to me.. you know the kind of planning session I am talking about. As I was combing over notebook #2, I instantly remembered how these lessons changed my readers. I was so excited to start our journey with characters and explore fiction in a way my readers haven't done before. 

 Taking  a Journey with Characters

The first step in planning for meaningful reading mini lessons - selecting perfect read alouds. Ok, this is the hardest step for me. In fact, it's so hard for me to narrow down the books I will use during my unit about characters. I also have issues with stashing books to the side on my bookshelf so I make sure I don't read them to my students until the most perfect time and the most perfect lesson. It's a problem...I am working on it! Ok, maybe next year I will work on it! These books have been patiently stashed on the bookshelf for these lessons with 'unforgettable characters.'

You want to select books with unforgettable and interesting characters. I know I said that before but this is the most important part. We want our students engaged and wanting more. We want the book fair guy to be scared when our students are running down the hall to buy more and more Elephant and Piggie books... TRUE STORY!

In these lessons I focus on the following teaching points:
* readers can identify the characters
* readers notice the characters throughout the story
* readers notice the feelings of their characters
*readers must do thinking and noticing to get the most out of their character
* readers predict their characters feelings based on clues and things they already know 
*readers compare and contrast characters (adventures & experiences) in different stories

Adding to your anchor chart each day or even with a new text will allow students to start comparing and contrasting characters within different stories. I love using Elephant and Piggie books because the students start to notice how Piggie is always so happy. Gerald is such a predictable moody character and he provides such great learning opportunities for your students. 
I also love using Goodnight Already and Too Many Frogs to compare and contrast characters. The main characters have such similar attributes the students will be able to do some deep thinking: What if Rabbit was in the story Goodnight Already?

This is the point in the year when my readers just bloom. 
Right before my eyes I have 1st graders...sniff sniff.

This year I promise I will remember how much my students gain from these lessons. Oh, and I won't stash all my Elephant and Piggie books on my bookshelf... Oh yes I will, who are we kidding!

Who is your unforgettable character? Help us add to our collection by commenting below.