Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Teaching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with Thinking Maps

Today I finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with a few of my third graders. We've only been reading it for, oh I don't know, four months or so?! This year I was finding it really hard to fit in authentic texts with the more workshop-like model I've got going.  I'm running several different phonics and fluency programs, plus constantly working on sight words and anything that needs doing from the kids' gen ed rooms.  My solution has been to still do a long-term read aloud, but to do it in a more low-key way.  For this book, we used thinking maps on chart paper to work on comprehension skills.  It was really neat to use the comprehension skills in context so that the kids could actually see the point, instead of just learning the skill in insolation. For example, we used circle maps to describe each of the main characters:



These got filled in very gradually as we learned more about each character.  They were really useful to refer back to if students were getting characters mixed up or forgetting what they were like.  Seeing the four children on one chart paper page also really reinforced the importance of there being four children in Narnia (there are four thrones at Cair Paravel). They also made it really easy to talk about how Edmund changed over the course of the book.  One thing I love about authentic texts is that they actually have dynamic characters! Edmund really lends himself to talking about growth and change vs. being stagnant. 

We also tracked story elements throughout the book using a tree map.  In leveled readers there is often only one setting, problem, and solution.  I love getting to show students that literature is actually more complex than that-- and more interesting! Tracking the problems as we went through the story allowed us to talk about what was still unresolved.  For example, when Aslan came back to life, the students looked at our tree map and pointed out that the problem of "Tumnus was arrested by the White Witch" had still not been resolved.  When Aslan headed to the White Witch's castle, they were able to guess ahead of time that he might fine a stone Mr. Tumnus there.  Students who might be struggling with the plot of the story are still able to participate by noting new characters and settings.  

Using a flow map to track events is what allowed us to get other work done! Because we had a record of the events, we were able to go several days at a time without reading the story, when we had to.  When we picked it back up, I would ask a student to read the last few events from the flow map out loud, jogging everyone's memories. After each reading session, I would ask a student to tell me what happened that day.  This also let us get some re-telling and sequencing practice in!




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And, as a bonus, here's the KWL (Know-Want to Know-Learned) tree map we did before and after we started. I used this to get them excited to read the book.  We filled out the "Know" section using information from the title of the book and the front cover.  The "Want to Know" section includes their most pressing questions... my favorite is, "How many witches?"  They had completely forgotten about this chart, so it was fun to dig it out today and have them answer their own questions to fill out the "Learned" section.


There are so many cool things I could have done with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  In terms of the guided release model, everything we did with the book was "we do." When I did Harry Potter and The Phantom Tollbooth, we read them every day and students completed packets, took quizzes, and did final projects.  That one's way to do it.  But this year, I didn't have the same block of time with my students, and I had to do something different.  And in some ways, I like that this got to be a pretty stress-free experience for them.  For students with learning disabilities, reading is often a constant struggle, and I'm glad they now have some positive associations with it! I would love to hear from anyone else who has read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with their students! 

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