Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo ~ Lexile 670 ~ Grades 3-5

Our fourth grade teachers are off to a fabulous start with teaching the Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo.  This book is a John Newberry Award winning story (2004) and is a captivating tale.  The vocabulary and effortless use of author's craft has left our fourth graders already begging for more reading time!  This is an excellent text to teach about character thoughts, feelings, emotions, motivations, reactions and traits.  Cause and effect text structure rounds out this juicy book.

From Kate DiCamillo's Site:

"Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tillling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories and a princess named Pea.  It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world with light.  And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish.  These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other's lives.  And what happens then?  As Kate DiCamillo would say:  "Reader, it is your destiny to find out."
It is my turn to be lead in planning a unit, so I started with rereading the entire book and annotating everything that stood out to me, which was much of the text!  My partner, Heather, is leading the Nonfiction portion of this along with a few STEM tie-ins.  In addition, Heather makes ALL of the copies and mock-ups for the team.  I am so thankful for Heather!!!

Next, I identified the key standards that should be be incorporated or addressed to enhance the understanding of this book and wrote them as I Can statements.

All of these were put on posters to reference so students knew their goals for this unit.  Reader...Notice... most of the goals are in more deeply noticing the story.  (A little Despereaux humor there...)

Next, the elements of a fantasy story/fantasy genre were directly taught to be referenced as students make connections.  I think our teachers' anchor charts turned out grand! Last year's version:

This year's version: (We are getting lazy and tracing from a master copy.  maybe not lazy, just more efficient!)

As this is a book that needs time to sink into, we decided to have longer periods of time for students to read.  As students read, our main focus is on character's thoughts, feelings & emotions, motivations, actions and traits along with cause & effect text structure.

As I said earlier, Despereaux is beautifully written and full of figurative language.  We will be integrating phrases from the story to focus on.  Our fourth grade teachers already have a wall of figurative language categories.  They choose a student to write the example on an index card to staple under the appropriate category. (Some of the teachers print these 4 to a page instead of index cards.)

Finally, extending written ideas through the use of coordinating conjunctions has been very powerful.  Teachers are modeling FANBOYS and students have given this style of response through brainstorming in small groups and partners.  I am currently updating these posters.

I am absolutely thrilled with the start of this Universal book in our fourth  grade classes!

More to come...



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