Leap Into Literacy Grade 3

February/March

Reading Workshop: Unit 3 Character Studies

Unit 3 brings a return to fiction for a close study of characters. The third graders will continue to develop the narrative reading skills they started working on during the first unit but will now dig deeper, analyzing characters and trying to understand what motivates them. The children will be studying the big lessons the characters are learning and they will look closely at how these lessons are a part of the theme or message of the story. Students will come to see that as characters grow and change, the problems those characters encounter in the story evolve.


You will be teaching into the very predictable structure of these types of texts. Students will look at what happens to your character across the whole story and that these characters will move in a predictable way- A Story Mountain

    • Beginning/Ascent: The main character faces a series of hurdles that pile up and grow bigger until the climax of the story (the top of the mountain) (introduce tension)

    • Turning Point: character often faces a test, takes action. (problem has gotten worse)

    • Resolution: other side of the mountain- completing characters journey (something is resolved)

  • Teach: readers expect characters to face & react to trouble → pay close attention to how they respond

  • Teach: Pay attention to secondary characters and their role in main character’s journey

  • Teach: The importance of climax - the part of the story when character must face up to something big that’s been troubling him or her all along and that leads to a turning point in the character’s journey

  • Spotlight: How characters resolve big problems and lessons that we all learn


When preparing for this unit, you will need a large volume of books. Fortunately, most any book can be used in this unit of study so try to find series books, as well as books with similar themes for when students build text sets at the end of the unit.

Writing Workshop

WARMING UP WITH GRAMMAR GAMES

Monday December 4, 2017 by Melanie Meehan

Before my daughter plays a soccer game or scrimmages, her team goes through several warm-up exercises. Watching them go through the motions, I’m impressed that they all seem to enjoy the warm-ups, and they also can explain the purpose of them.

It has helped me to think of these grammar games as the girls think of their soccer warm-ups. They’re quick, they’re fun, and they’re relevant to writing.

  1. Stretch a sentence.

The first thing I’ll say about this is that kids LOVE it. I started the lesson by showing the a three word sentence: The dog barked. Then, I showed them how I could make it a six word sentence: The big, black dog barked loudly. They got really interested when I took the sixteen word challenge and the twenty word challenge. However before I did that, I showed them a chart of word parts. Because they needed the word parts in order to play a game, they were really interested in how an adjective or an adverb would be perfect choices if you needed to change your sentence by just a few words. But, if you need to make more substantial changes, prepositions are your friends, and for major changes, conjunctions come into play.


This was a game, and it only lasted about fifteen minutes. However, the teacher and I sifted in reflective conversations throughout the rounds about the usefulness of words, and their responses were indicative of not only recognizing parts of speech, but thinking about how to use them meaningfully, both on their whiteboards within the parameters of a game and beyond the game and into the realm of their writing.


This sentence sentenced generated great conversation about how we have to be careful as to where we place our prepositional phrases.

2. Move around the words

This was MUCH more engaging to the kids than I ever imagined it would be! Before I challenged them, I modeled for them with a sentence, showing how, without changing or adding words, I could make the sentence different.

  • The gentle, kind mother fed the hungry, tired boys.
  • The mother, gentle and kind, fed the hungry tired boys.
  • The mother, kind and gentle, fed the hungry tired boys.
  • The mother, kind and gentle, fed the tired hungry boys.
  • The mother, gentle and kind, fed the tired hungry boys.

(You get the idea, and so did they!)

What was more important and interesting to me was their analysis of what the changes did. One student explained how when you connect two adjectives with the word “and”, you make them both stronger. As a larger group, we debated which position–first or second–gave the adjective more impact. (This is a third-grade classroom!) And then they got into how much more beautiful the sentence sounded when the adjectives came second. They couldn’t explain why, but they liked my suggestion that maybe it sounded more song-like.

A lot of the time, we teach grammar in isolation, and we teach only for recall and recognition. Sometimes, we ask students to correct mistakes, an activity that involves slightly higher order skills. I loved these activities not only because students were playing, but also because students were creating and analyzing. And, even more importantly, taking those sentence stretching and word order understandings to their own writing.

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