Monday, February 27, 2012

Author's Purpose with The Lorax

You know those lessons that are just right on target and everything goes well and you never want to forget how you taught them? I had one of those today, so I just HAVE to blog about it. 
First, you should know that my class is having a bit of a problem with Author's Purpose (according to their Scott Foresman unit benchmarks). I'm not talking about just determining an overall purpose for writing such as persuade, entertain, or inform. Our program wants students to infer even more and determine the author's purpose for specific sentences, etc...That's the hard part. My kiddos just couldn't seem to understand that author's purpose is about more than those broad reasons. Our reading coach suggested that maybe they weren't making the connection and if we charted specific examples it might help them make the transition. So, here's what I did:
  • First, we reviewed Author's Purpose (4 things in Scott Foresman): Persuade, Inform, Entertain, and Express Ideas (which includes descriptions).
  • Then we used the Carousel charting strategy. I made four posters on large chart paper. At the top of each paper was this question: What words, phrases, or graphic sources would you expect to see if the author is trying to persuade? I changed the underlined word to entertain, inform, and express for the other three charts. The students were divided into four groups and given markers. Each group held a silent conversation at their chart, writing responses rather than saying them aloud. After a few minutes, the groups rotated, so each group was able to visit each chart.
  • After this exercise, we viewed the charts together and discussed. (This allowed me to see what they really knew before we began the lesson).
  • Next, I told the children that we were going to think even more deeply about author's purpose. I told them that I wanted them to read to find specific examples in the text when Dr. Seuss was informing, entertaining, persuading, or expressing ideas. I gave them a copy of this chart (blank when we started):
  • Of course, I modeled heavily in the beginning. I read a page or two then thought aloud about different words, pictures, and phrases and why I thought he used them. We added them to our class chart, and students added them to their personal charts. 
  • After modeling several examples, I read a few pages and had the students work with partners to jot down specific examples, then share with the class. We repeated this several times until we finished the book.
  • At the end of the lesson, I had students return to the four charts and add anything they thought should be added. Then they answered a writing prompt from Minds in Bloom about what they would do if they had the last Truffula seed. 

What was so great about this lesson is that is was multi-level without me having to do a lot of differentiation. The kiddos who were able to think at a higher level and infer deeper meanings weren't held back. They had the freedom to jot and think on their own level. The ones who needed support had the scaffold of talking with their partners.

Another thing that was great is that at first, as a class we predicted that there would be no information in the text since it was a fiction story. The students, however, at the end of the lesson decided that we should put that the Once-ler told what would happen to the environment if it wasn't taken care of in the Information square.

I was able to pull in so many things as we read---onomatopoeia, rhyming words, similes, poetic license, conservation, theme, persuasive techniques...we even talked about how we could use these same strategies in our own writing. Best of all, I think they finally see that Author's Purpose is more than P.I.E.E.

Here's a copy of the chart I made if you're interested:
Author's Purpose Chart

Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment when we take it to the next level...

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