Welcome back for another "Monday's Minilesson Magic." I imagine it's that time of the year where you are working on fiction and thinking about characters in the story. Last year, my students and I learned from the Lucy Calkin's unit called "Following Character's Into Meaning." I called my unit:
The unit focuses heavily on learning about the characters world, living in their shoes, and being able to understand the character's motivations and reasons for their actions. I loved, loved, loved this unit, although we made modifications to the Lucy book along the way, I think it gave me new minilessons and I LOVE the sections on confering with readers and assessing students (not testing, but really getting at what they know or don't quite have yet).
Anyway, I think I digressed :) From this unit, my students and I were introduced to The Tiger Rising by Kate Dicamillo. OMG, if you have not read this book, please grab a copy now--one that you can write in if you read like me and love to underline and take notes about what you want to remember when you are reading it with your students. I am totally one of the SLOWEST readers, and I totally read this book trying to cherish every paragraph and every word, and I think I finished the book in about 2 hours. If you are not a slow reader like me, you can probably finish the book in one hour...Time well spent if a you are a lover of children's literature. This book definitely kept students wanting to listen for more!
The lesson I want to highlight today is how to help students "Walk in the Character's World." I guess what students are really doing in this lesson is comparing and contrasting the character's world to the world we live in. Here's our poster of Rob's World and Experiences VS My World and Experiences.
This poster is based on our reading of the first few (VERY SHORT) chapers of the book where we see Rob get bullied on the bus, we know it happens everyday, and we know the bus driver just ignores it. Rob is also living in the Kentucky Star Motel with his dad because his mother died a few months ago of cancer. (OMG--can I do an it's about of The Tiger Rising? It's about grief; it's about different ways people deal with their problems--Rob stuffs his in an imaginary suitcase and Sistine lets hers explode; it's about the power of love and friendship; it's about how family doesn't always have to be blood related; it's about being new to a school/town; it's about sadness; it's about the rights of animals...) Can you tell how much we LOVE this book in my class? The story stayed with us ALL year! (and this year too!)
Okay, back to the minilesson. So, I chose these two details from the book to compare to my world. I told students that in my world, adults stand up for kids when they are getting bullied. In yellow, you can see where I pushed myself to think more about this and I said "This makes me think Rob must feel ALONE, INVISIBLE, and like noone cares." For the living in a motel detail, I said it makes me think that a motel is not a place you stay for long, but Rob and his dad have been there for months. It's like they are stuck.
The next step to this lesson would be for students to create a chart like this to think about the world the characters in their independent books are living in. My students also continued this chart as I read aloud The Tiger Rising to push their thinking and give them a place for all of their great thoughts.
What do you think? Is this a lesson you normally teach? Have you read The Tiger Rising? Do you love it as much as my kiddos and I do?