Thursday, October 2, 2014

Introducing Touching Spirit Bear: Making Predictions & Using Context Clues (L.7.4)

The Power of Choice: How Do Our Decisions Affect Our Lives and the Lives of Others?
I think middle school students can benefit a lot from learning units in themes. This summer I read Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen, and while the Lexile level is only 670, the themes in the book are complex and are ones that many middle school students will be able to relate to in some way, shape, or form. Life is all about making decisions, learning and growing from them, and transforming to become more of who you really want to be. That is exactly what the main character in this book experiences. The themes of justice, the power of nature, the circle of life, anger and revenge, culture, healing, and forgiveness are ones every human can learn from, especially adolescents. I'm planning to use Touching Spirit Bear, in addition to several non-fiction texts related to topics in TSB, to teach the Common Core Standards my co-workers and I have organized for this quarter. It's the first time I've tried this sort of unit, but I'm excited about the possibilities. I would like to give credit to Erin Grysko, whose unit guide entitled "The Power of Choice: How Do Our Decisions Affect Our Lives and the Lives of Others?" has been one of my co-workers' and my main resources. Thank you for sharing your work with the world!

In previous days, we did a few activities that required students to think about choices and decisions that would prepare them for Touching Spirit Bear and realizing how choices and decisions play a role in ALL our lives. Some of the activities included: playing Would You Rather? , watching video clips of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and The Lion King, listening to the song Cat's in the Cradle. As always, students responded orally and in writing to questions that asked them to reflect on how choices and decisions played a part in each.

Today it was finally time to start getting our hands on Touching Spirit Bear! Today's activities started like this:
 So, that's exactly what my students did - they looked at the cover and made some predictions (inferences) based on the picture clues:

 Here is what one student wrote as a result of that prompt. You'll notice the sentence stems helped him get his thinking started. Sometimes I feel like a few sentence stems are all kids need to get their thoughts going!
Here is another student response:

Students shared their thinking as a whole group, and we created a KWL chart of some things that we KNOW for sure about the book and things we WANT TO KNOW as a result of the cover and back blurb. 
Students recorded the KWL chart underneath their predictions.

In my next class with my students, I introduced some vocabulary from Ch. 1. I modeled using context clues as a word solving strategy by highlighting the clues in each of the example sentences that lead me to make an inference about what the word might mean. I modeled the first two. Students did the rest of them on their own, highlighting the clues in the sentence that led to their inference. This strategy is Common Core State Standard L.7.4. The student learning target is: I can infer the meaning of unknown words using context clues (examples found in surrounding text).
For some words, context clues aren't always an option for word solving, so we used as an electronic resource to confirm whether our inferences were right. This strategy is Common Core State Standard L.7.4. The student learning target is: I can verify my inferred meaning of an unknown word by consulting general and specialized references (dictionaries).
Students filled in the definition if it was different than their inferences and/or revised their original inferred definition.


  1. Love this book and these activities! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Will you share your chapter vocab sheets?