School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 3

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

Indicator 8. Read critically to evaluate literary texts

Objective a. Identify and explain the believability of the characters' actions and the story's events


Prior to this activity, the teacher should select a literary text where a human character has special abilities. Some authors to explore for this type of text are Robin McKinley, Patricia Wrede, Ursula LeGuin, Roald Dahl, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, Natalie Babbitt, J.K. Rowling etc…Read aloud to students or have students read this type of literary text silently. Once reading is completed, the teacher and students should discuss the varied qualities and actions of this human character with special abilities dividing the qualities and actions into those that are believable and grounded in reality and those that are unbelievable and grounded in fantasy. The discussion should evolve into why certain qualities and actions are believable and others are unbelievable. This activity can extend to settings, plot developments, etc…any literary element the text would yield that addresses believability. Fantasy as well as science fiction texts work well with this activity.


As students read a realistic or historical fiction passage, the teacher should select a particular point where students make predictions about the future actions of a character. Students should offer ideas about what characters might say, do, or think next and support each idea by the text and by how realistic or believable that speech, action, or thought might be. The teacher should record each suggestion on the board or overhead. Students should return to the text and read to a designated point where the characters' predicted speech, thoughts, or actions are confirmed or refuted. Then the students and teacher should compare student suggestions to the text discussing how believable the text is in comparison to student suggestions.


Prior to class instruction, the teacher should read the text to determine a conflict in a realistic or historical fiction text. To establish a base for discussion, the teacher should tell students details of the text conflict but not its resolution. Students should be placed in small groups and given time to act out the conflict and their suggested resolution to that conflict. Each group should present its dramatic suggestion to the rest of the class and conclude with an explanation about how its suggested conclusion is realistic and based upon text details provided by the teacher. Next, students should silently read the text. Once reading is complete, the teacher and students should compare the text conflict resolution to the resolutions offered by the students. Then the teacher should place students into four or five small groups. Each group should have a focus to analyze the text: setting, characters, conflict, resolution, and subplots if the text contains subplots. Each group of students should review the text from its designated text element determining how well that element supports the believability/plausibility of the text conflict and resolution. The activity can conclude with each group reporting on the conclusions drawn by its members or by creating new small groups in jigsaw fashion where at least one member of the new group represents one of the text elements for discussion.


Prior to this activity, the teacher should select a science fiction/fantasy text where there is a predominant literary element that is grounded in science fiction or fantasy. Some suggestions are Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (setting) or The Messenger (setting), Isaac Asimov's "Rain, Rain, Go Away" (character) or Ray Bradbury's "All Summer in a Day" (setting), or David Almond's Skellig (character). With the teacher, students should read the text or a portion of the text and complete an organizer where students record elements they liked and disliked about the text and the elements that stretched their believability. After the less believable elements have been identified, the teacher and students should discuss how the author made these elements seem plausible within the context of the story. For example, in the case of character, what do other characters say about or how do they react to the character in question? Regarding setting, how does the author use language or have characters move within or react to the setting? Students may draw their own text-based conclusions about how successful the author is in making elements seem plausible. To conclude the activity, the teacher might want to institute a modified "Four Corners" activity, where students register the degree of their believability in identified story elements by grouping together with those who believe an element is believable, unbelievable, or partially believable. Extension: For skilled students, completing this activity with a piece of realistic fiction like Angela Johnson's Heaven increases the level of cognitive demand.

Resources for Objective 3.A.8.a:
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