Though I have included many general teaching procedures throughout my narrative, I will now suggest three specific lesson plans for activities related to my unit.
Lesson One: Using Detective Fiction to Develop Degrees of Reading Power
Subject Matter Area:
Will vary with each lesson developed.
1. Students will develop skill at using various context clues to identify unknown words and as a result will develop greater reading power.
2. Students will be able to identify the context clue used to aid in the selection of the appropriate word.
The goal of developing independent readers is a primary objective of the elementary school. One means of achieving this goal is through an approach that teaches students to look for various clues within the context of the material being read as a means of recognizing and understanding unfamiliar words. Besides teaching these techniques for unlocking unfamiliar words, this approach trains students to read more carefully, resulting in an overall improvement in comprehension. All New Haven elementary school teachers are familiar with this program designed to increase pupils’ “degrees of reading power.” (DRP)
There is a variety of materials available for use while working with students in such a program. Basically, these materials provide paragraphs where key words have been omitted. Students are asked to find the appropriate word from among four choices, all of them could fit within the sentence’s structure, but only one makes sense within the context of the larger piece. Students learn to explore the context before and after the missing word in order to find clues that will help to identify the missing word. The important skills developed here are to understand the procedures needed to explore the context for clues and the ability to recognize and utilize these clues when they are found.
In this lesson plan, I provide an example using a book from this unit to create an original worksheet that will be used to develop the skills discussed above. This sheet and others that I will develop will have the advantage of serving as reading instruction material as well as providing a source of review of the story’s content and narrative components. Its primary function, however, will be to improve the student’s reading ability. Initially we will focus on the context that leads one to the appropriate missing word. Students will be asked to justify their choice. The completed worksheets will be saved for future reference related to the unit’s contents.
Below is an example of such a passage based upon one of the stories used in my unit.
The Mystery of the Blanket Bandit
Student’s Name: Date:
The members of the Kooties Club lived in a _______________________(a. village b. neighborhood c. countryside d. town) with many tall apartment houses and few parks and little grass. They had chosen their club name because some of the other kids had ____________ (a. accepted b. befriended c. rejected d. welcomed) them by saying that they shouldn’t be touched because they had cooties.
Ty knew everyone in the apartments. Even if he didn’t know their name, he could ___________ (a. wash b. draw c. recognize d. see) their face. He knew their car, their family, and the apartment in which each family lived. He was a very ____________________
(a. observant b. attractive c. ugly d. athletic) individual.
The boys became interested in apartment A-13 when Ty realized that he didn’t know who lived there and that the apartment was always ______________ (a. empty b. dark c. noisy d. open) at night. No light ever appeared in the windows.
The Kooties began their ______________ (a. celebration b. visit c. trip d. investigation) by looking, listening and searching for clues. They were certain that daily visits to the apartment by mysterious _______________ (a. animals b. children c. strangers d. detectives), people whom they had never seen before, held the key to solving the mystery of apartment A-13.
Finally, the boys discovered that the apartment was occupied by a man named Mr. Dodge. Mr Dodge was ______________ (a. blind b. old c. lost d. energetic), so there was no need for him to turn on the lights at night. The mysterious strangers were bringing him supper each day and removing his ___________________ (a. cat b. television c. furniture d. trash) so that his apartment would be clean.
The Kooties had solved their mystery and had found themselves a new _______________
(a. relative b. criminal c. friend d. suspect), one who certainly didn’t think that they had cooties.
Lesson Two: Increasing Your Detective Vocabulary
Subject Matter Area:
1. Students will develop a specialized vocabulary related to detective fiction.
2. Students will develop ability to define vocabulary using context clues.
3. Students will use dictionary to check definitions.
4. Students will create crossword and word search puzzles based upon this vocabulary.
As students progress through the activities in this unit, we will compile a list of vocabulary words associated with the detective stories and the solving of crimes, puzzles, and problems. These words will be listed on a large chart that will be displayed in the classroom. Each student will also keep an individual list. Initially the definition for each word will come from the context of the story, puzzle, or problem. This definition will then be compared with a dictionary’s definition. Any variations will be discussed, with an agree upon definition being included on the chart.
Besides helping to increase students’ understanding of the detective fiction that they read, these words will be used to construct crossword and word search puzzles. Though the teacher will create some of the first puzzles, most will come from the students themselves.
The following is a list of some appropriate words that a class might include:
red herring sleuth
Lesson Three: Launching Your Own Investigation
Subject Matter: Reading, research, creative writing, art
Vocabulary: centaur, mythology and associated words
In the story, The Blanket Burglar, the Screech Owls are confused by a hastily snapped photograph of a horse covered with a large blanket, adorned with a picture of Abraham Lincoln. They believe it is a centaur, a man with a horse’s body. Though they know that the centaur is a part of Greek Mythology, little more is revealed about the creature. It will be the students’ task to discover additional information regarding the details surrounding the background of this mythological character.
This may be done individually or in small groups. There is not a great deal of information available for children on the internet or in school libraries, but students should be able to uncover the following basic facts. You might want to warn them that most centaurs were not very reputable.
Centaurs had the body of a stallion with a man, from the navel up, including a human head and arms, where you would normally find the horse’s head. Sometimes they had horns, wings, or both. They symbolized the unruly forces of nature. They fed on meat and often took part in drunken celebrations. Many were wild and savage, except for Chiron who was full of goodness and wisdom. Being the son of Ixion, he was the only immortal centaur. He was tutor of Greek heroes such as Achilles and Hercules. Accidentally wounded by Hercules, he lived in pain until he gave up his immortality to the Titan Prometheus. Another tale tells of his appealing to Zeus who transformed him into the constellation Sagittarius.
After children have uncovered this basic information, it will be shared and discussed by the class. We will then move to discover the fanciful Dr. Seuss tale of Horton Hatches the Egg, about an elephant who assumes the responsibility of sitting on the egg of an irresponsible mother bird who preferred to fly off and enjoy herself. Despite enduring many trials and tribulations, Horton is true to his word, staying until the egg is finally hatched. “I said what I meant and I meant what I said. An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent.” Horton’s persistence is rewarded when the baby chick is born with the body of an elephant and the wings and feet of a bird.
After a discussion regarding who is the rightful parent of the elephant-bird, students will create (draw) their own hybrid animal. They will write a brief summary of their animal’s ancestry and tell us a bit about its existence as a hybrid. Taking clues from the picture, the class will make guesses about each animals lineage, before the author reads the related story. Not much of a mystery, but it should be fun.