Unit 2 focuses on characters and is the first fictional unit for the year. Using fables and folktales, we will learn about characters. This unit will incorporate many fun and creative activities.
Introducing the Unit
I begin this unit with an anchor chart focusing on the essential question. During this time I discuss many different story elements: traits, challenges, lessons, motives, actions, and consequences. For some students, this is the first time they have really thought deeply about these topics. I ask the students what they think of each of these elements and write their answers on the anchor chart.
Project Based Learning
All About Me Rock Painting Activity
Since this unit falls at the beginning of the year, I take this opportunity to get to know my students on a deeper level. I like to take the idea of character traits out of a book and into real life. I use the All About Me Rock Painting project to do this. I have my students make a list of character traits, as well as hobbies, talents, experiences, and favorites, that describe themselves. After they have their lists completed, they create three sketches that represent them and choose one to paint. I have them write their names on the bottom of their rocks, hidden from sight. After the students have painted their rocks, they write a piece corresponding to their rock about what they chose to paint. Once everyone’s rock is painted and dry, we play the Rock Guessing Game. To play, the students put their rocks in the middle, and they choose a rock that is not their own. Each student reads his or her writing sketch out loud to the class, and the audience guesses if they have that student’s rock. This helps my students to recognize that they can use clues to help them determine character traits in a fun way!
Personal Traits Poster Project
Another fun activity I like to do with my students is simple and only requires a few supplies. It is a great activity for team building in the classroom. I like waiting until Unit 2 to do this activity, because the kids now know each other pretty well. I create posters for each student by printing their picture, gluing it on the poster board, and writing their name at the top. Each student gets a pad of sticky notes and a pencil. (I like doing this activity on the floor in a circle so I can monitor what they say about each other to keep their comments kind and respectful. We sit in the circle, and I put one of the posters in the middle. Each student takes a turn saying a positive (kind) character trait to describe the student on the poster. Once they’ve said their character trait, they write it on their sticky note, and stick it on the poster. After everyone has had a chance to share, I hang the poster on the wall and go on to the next student. When every student has had a chance to be the center of attention, we conclude the activity. Besides having fun, the students make awesome posters you can leave up all year of positive reminders about themselves and their friends.
Digital Project for Social Studies
Last year, I created a digital project focused around folktales. This Google Slides project allows students to choose a folktale and learn about the country the folktale comes from. Each student creates a float to represent the country of their folktale and presents their float to their friends. (Due to pandemic remote learing, I used Flipgrid last year, but they can present their floats live if they are in the classroom.) As we delved into the project, I discovered that many of my students were not familiar with the different folktales, so I had them create puppets and retell their folktales as well! You can grab this project for free below!
King Midas Crown Activity
During Week 2 of Unit 2, your students will read a story about King Midas. Instead of completing the Main Ideas/Key Details lesson in the Close Reading Companions, we put our lesson ideas on a Burger King crown. I have my students write the characters, setting, and a retelling on each point and the moral across the band. They then decorate them and I have them wear their crowns for the whole week of lessons. This is a lesson they always enjoy!
Planning and Prepping for Unit 2
Since this is the first fiction unit for the whole year, I like to find ways to make things more interesting. I recommend using these FREE planning templates when figuring out how to arrange your close reading lessons. Look for ways to think outside of the box on those lessons as well (like my King Midas/Burger King crown adaptation). You do not have to be tied to the lesson manual. Your students always remember the lessons better when you add your own thoughts. Check out some more ideas in Unit 2 Planned for Me. It has notes, prefilled-out planning templates, project ideas, and anchor charts you can use in your classroom.