My class has just started the second trimester in which we focus on the Common Core Literature Standards after having focused on non-fiction and the informational standards in the first trimester. During this second trimester, we will also focus on writing narratives so that everything is tied in together, both reading and writing. To teach the literature standards, I use folktales…lots of them. My favorite author to use is Gerald McDermott. He has written many Native American folktale stories that are fun to read, easy to work with and can be used in many ways.
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The literature standards for third grade include asking and answering questions (including inferencing), recounting or retelling a story, stating the central message or lesson, describing characters and how their traits influence the story as well, how illustrations enhance the story as, understanding literal and non-literal language. Folktales are wonderful to teach these standards because they have identifiable lessons or morals and colorful and engaging characters.
I start out the unit with three of my favorite McDermott stories: Raven, Coyote and Arrow to the Sun. Beginning with Raven, I teach the students to identify the setting (time and place), the main character and secondary characters, and the problem and solution. Before reading the story, I like to explain to my students how folktales probably originated. Someone in a village was a storyteller. That storyteller used stories to teach life lessons and to entertain. So I show them this video example of a storyteller (Shirley Kendall) telling the story of Raven, the trickster from the Northwest.
Once students have a grasp of these story elements, we move on to identifying the lesson to be learned or the central message. I found that the best vehicle to teach students about these story elements is a story map. A story map is a graphic organizer that identifies each of these story elements: title and author, setting, the main character, problem, and solution. We make a large chart version that the students also do in their language arts interactive notebook.
But we all know that when taking the SBAC or PARCC, students will not be asked to fill in a story map. So I also give my students practice in answering questions about the story using the RACE strategy. RACE stands for:
- Restating the question
- Answering the question completely
- Citing evidence to answer the question
- Explaining or giving an example of the evidence or your answer
My students were already familiar using this strategy since it was used in trimester one to answer questions about non-fiction passages. With some guidance, students were able to see that the strategy works the same way. I have developed support pages for the literature standards that are tied to each of the books I’m using. These support pages are tailored to match the standard while using these stories. With a completed story map or a copy of the story, students can then practice answering questions using RACE.
Inferencing is a very important skill that requires direct teaching by modeling and giving lots of examples. But the most important point I make to my students is this: is your answer reasonable, does it make sense with the story you are reading? If not, then your inference is probably off. We practice with the stories with such questions as; Why were the crows no longer having fun?(Coyote) Why did the Sky Chief have the shining light in a box? (Raven). With the common core, it’s important for students to cite text evidence even when making an inference.
A very versatile assessment tool or practice is to have students make a story map using a tri-rama. A tri-rama is essentially a diorama with three sides instead of four. You can designate each section and even the back side to contain certain drawn or written information related to the story. My students made tri-rama story maps with the Coyote folktale. I asked them to include: setting, characters, problem and solution. The setting was drawn as a background on the front. Then the characters were made as pop-ups that stand up in the tri-rama. On the back, the student wrote on one side the problem, and on the other side the solution.
Some tips about using a tri-rama. Do not have the students glue it down into the tri-rama shape until all the drawing is complete on the background and the required information on the back is complete. If not, it is too hard to draw, color and write when it has been put together completely.
Come back next week, when I show you how I go in depth into the central message and character analysis using more folktales!
You might want to check out the previews of the literature support pages or companion packs for these Gerald McDermott stories.
Finally, consider following my PINTEREST board for Gerald McDermott. There are lots of great ideas on art, links to videos, read-alouds, etc.