Fable-ous Writing

I plan my units out by the month. Perhaps I’ll share more about that process later, but I want to get to some teaching in this blog, and not just organization. This month in Second Grade is Fables.

I wanted students to do more than just read a bunch of fables during the month. I get a bit bored by those units, even if they are ‘easier’ to plan for. During my planning process over the summer I found this link from S.O.S for Information Literacy. This is a lesson plan for a class to write and use technology to share their own fable. Right up my alley!

Unit Recipe…
Week 1: Read Fables. Awesome, I can certainly do that. So far I am on the right track with this unit. Even better was the use of The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney and Fables by Arnold Lobel.
It was great because the first thing I heard from students was, “Hey–those have that medal thingy on them!” and, “That book won the Caldecott Award!” Music to my ears since we finished a Caldecott unit in January. Or December. Because of Snow Days it feels recent, but it really was a December unit.

I wanted students to be able to define a fable as a story usually with animal characters that teaches a lesson. Which leads us to….

Week 2 when I asked, “What is a fable?” and a students pointed his finger to the air like a wise old man and said, “It has animal characters and……. and…….”

I got a bit afraid.

“…and it teaches a lesson!’

I LOVE those moments!

So for Week 2 we used the Story Spine outlined in this S.O.S Information Literacy plan to craft a class fable. With class number one I wasn’t sure we were going to make it through. We started by discussing the end: the lesson. Students wanted to do something along the lines of “Don’t hit people.” This is a useful lesson and one that most people should follow, but I do have difficulty choosing such a negative topic for students to focus on for three more weeks and to share with others. We discussed more and got to the lesson of “don’t lie.” Okay, I can deal with that.

We start the Story Spine (love this term) and it was like pulling teeth. And the story wasn’t really matching the lesson. There was a cat who kept scratching up the dog’s door mat and lied about it. And at the end they wanted the dog to exact revenge upon the cat. We managed to work through it, but I was worried about the rest of the week and my next two classes, particularly my combination class with first graders.

But on Friday (skipped the combo class due to professional development) with my next class of second graders I made one small change. We wrote the story first and added the moral at the end. The class got fairly excited over parts of the story and it took all of our 25 minutes of lesson time. For each item in the story spine I asked for suggestions, put it to a vote, and wrote down the winning choice. Here’s our Fable of the Fat Pig.

 This story is MUCH better. It’s not perfect, but it’s funny, the kids wrote it, and it has a lesson and animal characters. I can’t ask for much more than that!

This week (Week 3) students will each be illustrating a part of the story in their art class and finishing up in library. I’ll be helping the third class write their story and assign their teacher homework so they can do their art in their classroom.

I’ll be scanning most of their artwork myself. I have taught students to use the scanner before, but in a more flexible setting when the other students could do something else. Next week (Week 4) we’ll work as a whole class using the school laptop and a projector to put the words together with the art into PhotoStory or MovieMaker. I’ll post our videos online and allow students time during class to view the ones from the other classes.

Even though February is not over, I’m counting this unit as a success. We’ll continue to review the definition of a fable and I’ll booktalk a few more choices for students to consider during checkout. They seem to get it, and that’s what matters in this case. Integrating the technology for this unit was a bonus for me. I’m so glad my search turned up this fabulous lesson idea!

What lesson ideas are you teaching now that you love?

February 14, 2011
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1 Comment

  • Reply Barbara Gogan

    First, thanks for sharing S.O.S for Information Literacy. I had never seen it before and I’m already stealing ideas left and right! And I love your pig fable–it’s clearly not a fable they’ve read with just the characters changed, as I’ve seen too many times.
    Great job!

    February 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm
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