When it comes to children’s literature, there’s good, there’s great, and there’s Patricia Polacco. Her books have it all. They are the perfect mentor text for teaching personal narratives and reading. I have an entire week of Reading Unit 4 centered around a Patricia Polacco author study. I’ve shared some of the highlights from those lessons and how to use her books as mentor texts for teaching theme and characterization.
In this post:
- Theme Introduction
- Supporting Theme With Text Evidence
- Comparing Characters
- Using Character Traits to Make Inferences
I start this after I’ve introduced theme in previous lessons. However, it’s an important enough concept to revisit throughout the year. Read Pink and Say and discuss the text with students. Use that discussion to collectively determine the theme of the book.
Use the mentor text to complete the first row of the Theme in Patricia Polacco’s Books graphic organizer. You can have each student complete their own graphic organizer, make a class version, or use the graphic organizer to create an anchor chart.
Supporting Theme With Text Evidence
In the next lesson I read Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece which moves in a completely different direction. As you read, have students think about the theme. After reading the book, discuss it together and discuss possible themes and add it to yesterday’s graphic organizer.
Explain to students that they need to support their choice of theme with evidence from the text. To do this, students should use phrases such as: because, for instance, for example, on page x it said, etc.
Model how to include this text evidence on the corresponding recording sheet. Students may also complete a Theme Practice recording sheet (independently or in reading groups). They may either find the theme of the book they are reading independently, in their reading group, or use text evidence to support the theme chosen for Pink and Say.
To add on to thinking about theme, in the next lesson students concentrate on the character traits of the main characters in the Patricia Polacco texts read. Read The Keeping Quilt and discuss the text with students. As a whole group, determine the theme and add the book to the theme table.
Then, model how to complete the Character Quilt recording sheet. In each square, students write the title and main character from a Patricia Polacco book. Students may write about multiple characters from the same book. Students write a character trait to describe that character and explain that character trait with evidence from the text.
Read Thunder Cake and as you read, discuss the story’s characters and theme. As a whole group collectively determine the theme of the text. Remember, a little debate is a good thing, because it encourages the use to text evidence. Once an agreement is reached, add Thunder Cake to the theme table.
Now that students have been introduced to several Patricia Polacco characters, they are ready to compare and contrast characters. To keep this activity open-ended, I let students select ANY two Patricia Polacco characters. The only exclusion is that they cannot repeat the two characters I select when modeling how to complete the assignment. Students describe both characters’ character traits, problems the characters overcame, and what the characters learned.
Using Character Traits to Make Inferences
We end our study of Patricia Polacco books with my personal favorite, Thank You Mr. Falker. I’m always impressed with how well students relate to this text and how deep their explanations go. After reading and discussing the book, add it to the theme table.
In the final activity, students use pictures, words from the text, actions from characters, and descriptions of setting to make inferences about the text. Many students’ first instinct is to explain something that was obvious or explicitly stated. Make sure they understand that they should explain something they inferred that was not directly written in the text. Students can use the book they are reading independently, in their reading group, or any Patricia Polacco text-you decide.
As an informational extension to the lessons, you have have students research Patricia Polacco. I did include a brief page and graphic organizer in the reading unit.
While teaching this Patricia Polacco author study, I check-out all the Patricia Polacco books available in the school library to make her books as accessible as possible to students. If you’d like to read more about how I teach reading to upper elementary students, be sure to check out this post!
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