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Literary Elements

Learning about Settings

Anchor Charts, Common Core, Literary Elements, Reading, Thinking Maps

We’ve continued our study of Common Core Standard 2.RL.1 and have moved on to focusing on the where question – the setting.  For setting, I found some great picture books that have a very descriptive and easy to identify setting to start with.  I’m teaching mainly ELL students so I didn’t want to confuse them with too many settings.  Even though the setting was semi-easy to identify I still wanted my kids to use text evidence to back up their setting choice.  To show text evidence, I used a brace map (thinking maps) and then also had students write a sentence response. 

The first story – Library Mouse we read whole group and discussed the setting and evidence together.

The second story – Gingerbread Cowboy – we read whole group, discussed, and completed a class brace map together.

The third story we used was Owl Moon.  To scaffold, we read the story and discussed whole group. Then, the students helped me fill out the brace map.  After filling out the brace map together, students copied the brace map and then had to fill in parts of the sentence on their own.

For the last story, for now, I used The Tickly Octopus. Now, I thought this would be a good one to see what kids could do independently on their own, but they struggled a bit.  I’m not sure if it was because of being ELL or just not having a lot of background knowledge, but kids had a hard time saying the setting was the ocean or the sea and they had difficulty coming up with evidence – fish, water, sand, octopus, coral, etc.  But, we move forward and will come back to setting again to re-teach as necessary. Below are a few samples of student work and the chart we filled out after they completed their student work.

Stay tuned for some plot ideas coming up in the next few days!

Analyzing Characters – Part 3

Literary Elements, Reading, Thinking Maps

I love, love, love teaching literary elements. We’ve continued to work on analyzing characters the last few weeks and below are a few lessons I’ve done with my 2nd graders.

Another great character book is No David.  We read the story together in class and they created a bubble map describing David.

Next up on the reading list, we read Strega Nona. This is a great book for characters and for comparing and contrasting the two main characters, Strega Nona and Big Anthony.  We read the story, completed a bubble map for each character, and then the students had to write down one of the traits and provide text evidence for the trait.


Class Completed Bubble Maps
Student Bubble Map on Big Anthony

I love this one – Big Anthony was sad because he had to eat all the pasta.


And, the most recent story we used was Chester’s Way.  After reading, we created a circle map for all of the characters.  We used stars or little clouds to show which characters were the main characters.  Then, students picked the main character that they were most like and told why.

I am like Chester because I like to rake the leaves.

Chester’s Way Character Circle Map – Lilly, Wilson, and Chester starred because they are the main characters.

Love this one – I am like Lilly because I do things my way.
Sorry I’ve been MIA for awhile. We had report cards and conferences this week and getting ready for that took some time since I’m new to the school and district!  Almost done though – only 3 conferences left! I promise to be a better blogger :-).

More Analyzing Characters

Literary Elements, Reading, Thinking Maps

I posted the other day about my first analyzing character lesson using Lilly from Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse that I saw on ReadWorks.org.  Now, this next lesson I did started with an idea from ReadWorks.org, but then took off on it’s own. To continue with the Lilly theme and see how a recurring character would be in two different stories, towards the end of last week we read Julius, The Baby of the World. Another great Kevin Henkes book – his books are fantastic for literary elements.

While reading we stopped a few times, once after the first page to write down Lilly’s traits, once towards the end of the middle section, and then again at the end. To show Lilly’s character traits we used a bubble map.  As we were going we saw that Lilly’s characteristics changed throughout the book.  In the very beginning, she was excited to have a baby brother.  Then, in the middle she was jealous (love that my ELL kiddos came up with that word that describes Lilly perfectly).  And, in the end, she sticks up for her brother and becomes protective.  As we were charting this together as a class and independently, I was talking with the kids about how confusing the chart looked since it said she was nice, mean, excited, grumpy, and rude.  I had an aha moment! I decided to have the kiddos and myself mark each bubble with a B for beginning, M for middle, and E for end, so we knew which part of the story we saw those traits in.  I’m sure someone has thought of this before, but it was one of those teaching moments where I was like how have I not thought of it. 
So, on day 1 we completed the bubble map….see examples

Then, on day 2, we took the bubble map and wrote up a little analysis as a class since it was our first time writing it. 
For our first try at character analysis I think we did a pretty good job.  Look for these lessons and lesson ideas to continue with Strega Nona next week.


Literary Elements, Reading

I’m sure many of you are already using www.readworks.org, but if you’re not you have to check it out.  It is a great website that has many common core reading standards, lessons that go with it, independent practice options, etc.  It is wonderful!

My kids have really been struggling with analyzing characters and I found a great lesson on ReadWorks last week.  Using the story, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse you analyze Lilly looking at her actions, what she was thinking, and how she was feeling.  We stopped multiple times as we were reading through the story to fill out our “recipe” of Lilly’s personality.  To document her actions, thoughts, and feelings, we used a tree map.  See below…

We also studied Lilly further using the story Julius, The Baby of the World.  Stay tuned for that post tomorrow!

Setting Write-Ups and Rubrics – Now on TPT

Literary Elements, Reading, TPT

I just added my packet for identifying story settings to TPT.  In my packet you will find, three different versions of a setting write-up.  The three versions are differentiated for either various points in the first grade year or for use in kindergarten and 2nd grade.  In addition to the setting write-up pages, the packet also includes story ideas and a reading checklist and writing rubric to use for scoring.  This packet fits in with the ELA Common Core Standards and focuses on not only identifying the setting, but also providing text evidence that supports the setting choice.

Check it out on TPT here

Here are two student examples from the past school year. We used this form throughout the year in first grade and as the kiddos got better at writing the setting and text evidence we took away some of the sentence frames.  These two examples are from the first quarter of first grade, so you’ll see the sentence frame in there for the kiddos to use.  At the end of first grade, we required students to identify and provide evidence for two settings (also an option in the TPT packet).

Thanks for checking out my first TPT packet!  Have a great night!

Brave Irene – Setting Brace Map

Literary Elements, Thinking Maps

Over the last week, we started reviewing literary elements again.  Identifying the setting was the one area of literary elements that our first graders struggled with the most.  On Friday, we read the story Brave Irene (great story by the way) and came up with the 3 settings from the story.  We used a brace map to display the settings and then added evidence that supported the setting identifiation. The kiddos did great with it.  See below….

Literary Elements – Problem and Solution

Literary Elements, Thinking Maps

For the last part of our literary elements focus, for now, we focused on finding the problem and solution in a story.  As the two weeks of instruction went on, the kids really seemed to grasp the concept of finding a problem or problems in a story and then figuring out how the problem was solved. 

To teach problem and solution, I used some of the following picture books:

  • Wemberly Worried
  • Harry the Dirty Dog
  • The Three Little Javelinas
  • Prudy’s Problem and How She Solved It
  • The Kissing Hand

For showing problem and solution during whole group instruction, we used a flow map (thinking maps).  See two examples below.

For the story, Prudy’s Problem and How She Solved It:

For the story, The Three Little Javelinas:

To assess our kiddos, we used a simpler form.  It had a space for a picture of the problem and a picture of the solution at the top. Then, the kids had to fill in the following sentence frame “The problem in the story was…” and “The problem was solved when…”
This upcoming week, I’m super excited because we are starting our informational text study and will be making Nonfiction Conventions Notebooks from Debbie Miller’s, Reading With Meaning. More posts coming soon on this!

Setting – Literary Elements Activities

Literary Elements, Reading

After spending two great weeks learning about characters as a part of our literary elements study in first grade, we moved on to learning about setting.  Setting is a tough one for first graders and it always has been for some reason.  The main part we focused on for these two weeks was where the story took place. We did discuss the time and the “when it took place” part of setting, but that discussion took place whole group.

Below are some awesome stories we used to focus on setting:

  • Library Mouse
  • Shark in the Dark
  • Swimmy
  • Chewy Louie
  • Zinnia and Dot
  • Corduroy
  • Owl Moon (used for their assessment)
  • The Gingerbread Cowboy (used for their assessment)
Setting Activities:
  • The easiest setting activity we did only takes a white piece of paper. We had students write the title of the story, name the setting, and then draw a picture of the setting.
  • Then, after a training on staff development day, I realized the Brace Map (thinking maps) would be a great way to identify what details led to the identification of the setting.

  • For practice and for our two Friday assessments, we used the setting page seen below…
Here are a few kid examples for the story – The Gingerbread Cowboy.  My favorite part about this assessment is kids not only have to identify the setting, but they also have to provide evidence from the book that led to them picking that setting (the upping of the rigor in Common Core :-))
The setting is desert.  I know this because in the book there is sand in the desert and cactus.
The setting is the desert. I know this because in the book there was cactus and a coyote and the wild pigs.
Below is the rubric we used to grade the setting portion and reading response.

Common Core – Characters and Opinions

Literary Elements

A few weeks ago we took on the Common Core Standard in reading that focused on identifying characters and also took on the writing standard that focused on writing about your opinion.  Our first graders loved these books and loved these activities.  They also did a great job stating their opinion and why they felt that way about a certain character.

Here are some books we used throughout the two weeks to teach characters:

  • Shelia Rae the Brave
  • Ira Sleeps Over
  • Chester’s Way
  • True Story of the 3 Little Pigs
  • Julius, The Baby of the World
  • Goldilocks and the 3 Bears

Below are some the activities we completed with the stories.

For Chester’s Way and Ira Sleeps Over, we made circle maps that named all of the characters in the story.  We first made the circle map together, then gradually over time the kids made it on their own.


For The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, we made a bubble map listing characteristics of the Wolf, Alexander T. Wolf.
After reading Strega Nona, we made a double bubble map comparing Strega Nona and Big Anthony.  The kids got a kick out of this story – they always love when the pasta boils over and into the town and they also love at the end when Strega Nona makes Big Anthony eat all of the pasta.

For the first character assessment, we used the story, Julius, The Baby of the World. The kids had to make a circle map and list all of the characters from the story. Then, the kids had to write an opinion about the main character Lilly and support their opinion using text from the book.  They did awesome!!  See a few examples below…

Lilly was a bossy girl. I think this because in the book she was saying I’m the queen, I am the boss.
Lilly was an annoying girl. I think this because in the book she was messing up the numbers and letters.
Lilly was an annoying girl. I think this because in the book she was dreadful to her brother and not inviting him and not encouraging him and being mean. 
*Loved this one! Great word choice*
For the second assessment, we used the story Goldilocks and the 3 Bears.  The kids completed their circle map and then wrote their opinion of Goldilocks.