Saturday, December 20, 2014

Multi-Day Read Aloud Lessons to Teach Characterization in Primary Grades

This is a multi-day lesson designed to introduce second grade children to methods of characterization by inferring about a character's actions. This is the last book read in a unit about the Himalayan Mountains. Students have heard and interacted with the following texts:

  1. Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. (2010). The Chiru of High Tibet: A True Story. Illustrated byLinda Wingerter. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Books.
  2. Jenkins, Steve. (2002). The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest. New York: Sandpiper.
  3. Reynolds, Jan. (2007). Himalaya: Vanishing Cultures. New York: Lee & Low Books.

Text: Soros, Barbara. (2003). Tenzin’s Deer. Illustrated by Danuta Mayer. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books.

Day One/1st Reading
Book Introduction: This is a story about a Tibetan boy named, Tenzin, who finds an injured musk deer and cares for her. Eventually the deer heals and Tenzin is faced with making an important choice. Let’s read in order to find out what challenge Tenzin faces and what choice he makes.
Vocabulary: poached, extinction

Note: It is recommended that you read this book through once stopping only briefly to respond to children’s questions/wonderings. During subsequent re-readings, the following questions can be explored.
After 1st reading: Have students create a story map with you. 

When retelling the children should be able to:
  1. Retell what happened
  2. Why it happened
  3. The effect on Tenzin's mental state
  4. Be able to emphasize connections between earlier and later parts in the story. 

Day Two/Second Reading

Question 1: Listen as I reread the opening to the story (this should be written on chart paper so that students can use the written text to help them answer the question) and ask yourself: ‘What similarities are there between this story and The Chiru of High Tibet (Note: Place copy of the book on easel so students can see it):
The musk deer is a small, shy, solitary animal found throughout the forested regions of Asia and Russia. Musk, the oil base used in a number of perfumes, is one of the world’s most expensive natural products; up to five times more expensive than gold. The musk deer is widely poached for its precious scent gland and, as a result, this beautiful creature is facing extinction.
Turn and tell your partner one similarity between this book and The Chiru of High Tibet. (RL.2.9)

Question 2: Listen as I reread the first page and study the illustrations carefully. Roughly-hewn stones are stones that have been shaped with hard blows from a cutting instrument like an ax. 
What can you infer about Tenzin and the characters in this story based on what I have read and the other books we have read together?  Turn and tell your partner what you are thinking. (RL.2.3, RL.2.9)
Allow children to discuss their inferences and then show the chart below and model one inference you made and how you supported your inference with reasons from the text. Invite students to offer their inferences and then reread the passage and have students listen for and identify reasons that support their inferences. (RL.2.7, RL.3.5)

Question 3: What happened to the deer when Tenzin first finds her? Which words in the passage directly tell you? Reread page that begins: “Help me I am in pain...but he did not know what would happen now.” (RL.2.1)

Question 4: Tenzin’s first dream leads him to treat the deer. How does his dream connect with the actions he took to remove the arrow? (Reread the dream and the action. ) Turn and tell your partner. (RL.2.1)

Day 3/Third Reading

Question 5: Let’s recount each dream Tenzin has and explain how the dream leads him to care for Jampa. (RL.2.1) 

Question 6: How are Tenzin and Jampa similar? (RL.2.3)

Question 7: How did Tenzin use the myrobalan flower to heal Jampa? Explain this to your partner.(RL.2.1)

Question 8: Why does Tenzin decide to release Jampa so she can return to the wild? Turn and tell your partner. Why is this difficult for him to do?   Turn and tell your partner what he learns as a result of releasing Jampa. (RL.2.1, RL.2.2)

Question 9: How does Tenzin’s earlier years and experiences caring for Jampa prepare him to be a fine doctor?  Discuss with your partner and then write an explanation in your notebook. (RL.2.1)

Day 4 /Fourth Reading

Listen as I reread. Let’s think about specific times when we wonder while reading this story.   Use this frame: 
The moment I heard...I wondered. 

Day 5/Fifth Reading

Task 1: This time when I reread the story, let’s think about the actions that Tenzin takes in the story and what those actions suggest about the person he is. To help us keep track of our thinking we will record the actions Tenzin takes in the left column and we will record what we think motivated him in the right column. 

When you hear or think of something we should record, please raise your thumb and I will stop reading. (RL.2.3)

Task 2: We can learn a lot about a character from his actions and what we think motivates those actions. Let’s reread our chart, think about the Tenzin's actions and motivations, and then name some character traits that fit Tenzin. (Reread chart and then flip page to show Character Traits. ) To get us started I recorded some character traits on this chart. Let’s read through them chorally and as we read let’s think about which ones best describe Tenzin.

Turn and tell your partner which traits best describe Tenzin. Then in your notebook record the trait and explain why. (RL.2.3)

Task 3: Now that we have discussed traits, let’s think about the story and find evidence that supports our thinking. For example, if I think that Tenzin was dependable what evidence from the story can I find to support that idea? Who can help me complete this statement?

Tenzin shows he is dependable by taking care of Jumpa until she is healed.

Continue this chart by recording the first portion of the sentence and having students name the trait and evidence. (RL.2.3)

Tenzin shows he is ________________ by ___________________________________ . 
Tenzin shows he is ________________ by ___________________________________ . 
Tenzin shows he is ________________ by ___________________________________ . 

Task 4: Now that we have described Tenzin, have thought about his actions, and have connected those actions with our description of him--let’s write a paragraph to explain what Tenzin is like and support our ideas with evidence from the story. Note: You may want to differentiate this task by having students do as much of this work independently as possible. (RL.2.3)

Task 5: Most stories have a message, moral, or lesson about life. Let’s think about the ways Tenzin was courageous in the story.  Courageous means to be brave and not to be stopped by pain. (RL.2.2)
  • What did Tenzin do that caused him pain?  
  • What does he learn from this experience? 
  • What do we learn from Tenzin? 
Record a written response to these questions in your notebook.


  1. Thank you for your ideas - some great ways to explore a beautiful book.

    1. My Pleasure. This unit is part of an 8-unit full year curriculum for grade 2.


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