This is a lesson that can be used with the Common Core State Standards in Writing K-5 for fourth and fifth grade students with my book, Finding My Place. Number 9 in the writing standards for both grades says, “Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.” The difference is that you are applying grade four reading standards to the fourth grade writing objective and grade five reading standards to the grade five writing objective.
In grade four with fictional text like Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, students need to describe in depth a character, setting, or event in the story while they draw evidence from the novel to support their analysis, reflection, and research. In grade five with fictional texts, they are comparing or contrasting two characters, settings, or events and using details from the novel to support their analysis. In other words, students cannot just make a claim like, “James is a pain to his sister Anna.” They have to be able to back this up with different examples from the novel of things Anna has said or done to show this to the readers.
In this lesson, fourth grade students are going to describe the event of the fire downtown and how it impacted the main characters: James and Anna, supporting their analysis with details from the text. In fifth grade, students are going to compare and contrast the fire downtown to the time that Anna’s family ran to their cave and Ma was killed. Students will focus on the actions of Anna and James and use details from the events to support their opinions.
To show students how to write a paragraph/paper like this, a writing lesson where you produce a sample as a class is a great idea. In fourth grade, use the event of Anna finding Michael in the hospital. In fifth grade, compare and contrast the events of a temporary cease fire to the surrender.
Here’s how to do this in fourth grade. (It would be the same steps in fifth grade–you just need to focus on two events instead of one and then how you can compare and contrast them.) Ask students to help you make a list of anything they can remember from the event of Anna finding Michael–this list will be a type of brainstorming and prewriting for the paragraph. And yes, they can use their books. The point is to draw evidence from the story–not how much they can remember without looking.
What statement can they make about Anna or Michael or the hospital or the event based on your list? For example, Anna acted bravely. She knew the consequences she would face when she got back to the Franklins’ cave, but she stayed with Michael anyway because family is important.
The mansion that was turned into a hospital had horrible conditions for the wounded soldiers–without proper medicine and/or sanitary conditions.
Once you decide on an analysis or reflection, now it’s time to support this idea.
Let’s say your students choose the latter–focusing on the setting–about the hospital conditions. You can write a sentence about the flies and the heat, the soldier who was asking for whiskey, and more. The important thing is to have students give you three or four examples and then turn them into sentences and add them to your paragraph. At the end of the paragraph, you need a concluding sentence, such as: Based on these details and more in Finding My Place, it is obvious that wounded soldiers faced unsanitary conditions and part of this could have been because the North blocked supplies.
Finally remind students of the steps you took to write this paragraph: brainstorming, creating an analysis, finding specific details to support it, and writing a concluding sentence.
Any questions? Let me know!
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