This post originally appeared on the blog Around the Kampfire.
Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon, is a teacher’s dream for deepening comprehension. This delightful book lends itself so well to building vocabulary, analyzing characters, and determining their points of view. Opportunities for writing and teaching fact/opinion, cause/effect, the 2 sounds of C, and so many other skills, abound. Read on for ideas to do your own Stellaluna book study to help you turn your readers into comprehenders and get your students writing about what they are reading.
When working with a book, I’m very strategic in the vocabulary I choose for students to learn. This book uses some very visual words. Words that are easy to act out and that give a strong mental image once students understand their meaning. Words like swoop, clumsy, clambered, and croon.
Croon is one of my favorites. I make sure to point out that “back in the day,” a singer with a beautiful voice was called a crooner (Think Frank Sinatra.) I play the song Fly Me To The Moon to give them an example amidst lots of giggles from my girls and eye rolling from my boys! It makes my teacher heart so happy when I see and hear students using their new vocabulary. This week one of my boys reported that he needed to work on the floor because so and so’s crooning was disturbing his learning. Ha!
Determining How Stellaluna Changes
We spend time analyzing Stellaluna as a character and describing how she responds, changes, and adapts to the life-changing events and challenges she faces. This chart is a great way to address RL.3. My class calls this a “flubble map” since it is a bubble map to describe inside of a flow map to show sequence. We brainstorm adjectives to describe Stellaluna during each part of the story and give evidence to support our descriptions.
Each of the characters in this story has a very distinct point of view and they feel very differently (and strongly) about several topics. One of the reasons this book is so perfect for addressing RL.6 and RL.7 standards is the fact that the characters do have very strong and differing opinions on topics such as eating bugs, how one should sleep, and flying at night. Students use the dialogue between characters to draw conclusions and to determine each characters’ point of view. They then compare them using this chart.
Students share their thoughts to add to our class chart.
I’ve done this lesson a couple of different ways. Some years I’ve projected the student page and had students add their thoughts on the board. Other times they work in pairs and complete the student page before sharing onto the chart.
Building Reading Fluency
Students choose a character then take turns reading smoothly and with expression. Oh, and did I mention their favorite part? In the characters’ voices!
Stellaluna and Reading Skills
Opportunities for skills practice abound with Stellaluna. I have students work on vocabulary, grammar, writing, and word work as we use this book in our literacy centers.
Partners or groups of 3 use critical thinking task cards to discuss story elements, characters, problem & solutions, the plot, and the illustrations. I’m able to address multiple standards this way and my class loves anything with a spinner!
Writing About Reading
Over the years I’ve collected several copies of Stellaluna that I use small groups. We use the Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then strategy to summarize the story.
Throughout our book study we make character booklets and include our summaries as well as responses students write after each of our lessons. this culminating project is a great way to get students writing about what they are reading and to teach them to respond to literature.
My class was so proud of their final projects and we added them to our Fall bulletin board.
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