Dragonwings: Explore Chapters 1 - 5
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
- Demonstrate the ability to read independently for extended periods of time in order to derive pleasure and to gain information.
- Make connections between a text read independently and their prior knowledge, other texts, and the world.
- Use graphic representations such as charts, graphs, pictures, and graphic organizers as information sources and as a means of organizing information and events logically.
- Determine pronunciation, meanings, alternate word choices, parts of speech, or the etymologies of words by using a dictionary and a thesaurus.
- Write and publish in a variety of formats.
- Use a variety of resources, including technology, to access information.
- Present their research findings in a variety of formats.
- Student copies of Laurence Yep’s Dragonwings
- Pencil and paper
- Chart paper
- Character Chart (PDF) from The Big Book of Reproducible Graphic Organizers
- 1 computer and video projector/a computer lab with at least one computer per 2 students
- Large piece of banner/butcher paper
Set Up and Prepare
- Copy the Character Chart for each student.
- Create a Vocabulary List on chart paper or bulletin board in the following way:
Chapters 1-2 Chapters 3-5 amiable remnant heirloom skirmish pious taint prosperity dirigible dowry dubious insolent malleable ornamentation exuberance translucent dwindle queue malicious protrude residue
- Prepare a K-W-L Chart for either each student or for each small group of students.
- Schedule use of a computer lab or reserve a video projector from your school’s media center to connect to a classroom computer.
- There are different grouping suggestions in this lesson. Determine groups ahead of time.
- Preview the following websites to become familiar with the content before displaying them to students:
Part I – Introducing the Writer
Step 1: Begin class by having students preview the cover of Dragonwings for the author’s name.
Step 2: Ask the students to share what they know about Laurence Yep and to include what other books he has written. Distribute the K-W-L Charts to the students or groups and ask the students to list information about Yep or Dragonwings that they already know.
Step 3: Using the computers in a lab or the computer connected to a projector, direct student attention to the first website that shows Yep’s biography. Have the students read the page, either aloud or independently, and share one thing about Yep that is surprising to them. There are many interesting facets to this author. Also point out at this time that the main character in Dragonwings will experience similar events or have similar qualities as Yep.
Step 4: Have students read the interview questions that Scholastic asked Yep. Be sure to point out that Yep mentions his father was a kite maker, as this is another similarity to the hero of Dragonwings. Give students time to peruse Yep’s booklist to take note of other books to read, especially those that are also part of the “Dragon Chronicles.”
Step 5: Have students complete the third column of the K-W-L Chart to include what each learned about Yep and Dragonwings through the reading activity during this part of the lesson.
Step 6: Either as a concluding step to this part or as homework before the next class meeting, have students list what each wants to find out about Yep or Dragonwings on their K-W-L Chart. At some point, you may want to display the charts on a bulletin board as a reminder of what information should be found during the unit.
Part II – Ready… Set… Go!
Step 7: Introduce the first set of vocabulary words for the novel. The first list of 10 correspond to chapters 1 and 2 in the novel. Depending on your students’ needs, instruct the children to look up the definitions before reading or allow them to complete the definitions as each finds the words in the chapters while reading.
Step 8: This part is particularly interesting to students as each will be anticipating the start of this novel. When I do this, I like to divide my students into two groups. On the first day, Group 1 will be on the computers and Group 2 will be reading independently. Then, on the second day, the groups will switch so that each has class time to read and class time to explore background information that is pertinent to the novel. The more flexibility you allow your students, the more they will begin to take charge of their own learning during a novel study.
Step 9: While one group is reading independently, have the other group explore the fourth website on Asian Pacific American Heritage. Make sure students spend a majority of time on the information with Angel Island. There is a poignant section in the novel where Moon Shadow must pass inspection on Angel Island, and many students have only heard of Ellis Island. As Angel Island was the immigration point in the Pacific Ocean, understanding how it worked is important for relating to this experience with our main character. Just as each will experience this with Moon Shadow, students are able to walk through this process through the eyes of a child as an online activity provided by Scholastic.
Step 10: As a concluding activity, invite students around a big piece of banner paper or butcher paper to participate in a graffiti activity. On Angel Island, there were warehouses where the immigrants had to stay until they were approved to go the mainland. While in the warehouse, many left graffiti on the walls to offer advice, encouragement, or suggestions to the immigrants that came after them. Instruct students to take on the persona of an immigrant coming into a strange world where people speak to you, but you cannot understand them and no one seems to be looking out for you. Ask the students to write what a person in that situation might be feeling on the wall of the warehouse. After all your students complete this approved graffiti activity, display the “wall” on a bulletin board or in the hallway. This activity makes a great conversation piece.
Part III - Meet the Characters
Step 11: Give the students the list of words for chapters 3 to 5. Allow time for students to define the remaining words. Divide the students into groups of 3 or 4 to discuss all the words from the first two lists and compare definitions. Walk around and observe the conversations, making yourself available to clarify misconceptions about the meanings as needed.
Step 12: Schedule time in class or time at home for students to read through Chapter 5.
Step 13: Divide the students into groups of 4 or 5. Distribute the Character Chart printable to students and have each decide upon one of the main characters from the first 5 chapters. In some cases, you will want to identify the characters for them: Moon Shadow, Windrider, Uncle Bright Star, Black Dog, and maybe Hand Clap could be used if you have a group of 5. In most cases, sixth graders should be challenged to identify the main characters independently, so you may want to keep your list private.
Step 14: Have students complete the Character Chart independently. Afterwards, match up the characters into one group, i.e. all the “Moon Shadows” will be in one group, all the “Windriders” in another, etc. Have the students compare notes and discuss the characters based on what they have read thus far.
Step 15: Collect the Character Charts. Prior to posting, use brightly colored markers and outline the clothes on the child in the chart so that the figure stands out. Use the charts on a bulletin board either in the classroom or in the hallway throughout the novel study for student reference.
Supporting All Learners
Students may choose to read with a partner in some cases. Another option would be to have a struggling reader read the text aloud into a tape recorder. Then, at night or in the car going to and from school, the student can review the text to increase chances for comprehension.
- Students can divide a piece of drawing paper in half and draw a child in China on one side and the child now in the U.S. on the other. In this picture, the student would need to pay attention to setting, background, clothing, and other people in the picture.
- Students can research a variety of topics around the turn of the 20th century that pertain to China, the U.S., or immigration that include politics, music, art, or trade. I would caution you not to create a required research project at this time as many students are already overwhelmed with the idea of being required to read an entire novel.
Send home a letter to parents announcing the novel study. In some cases, students may want to be encouraged to buy a personal copy of the book so as to be able to highlight and make notes in the text itself, as student interaction with text has been proven to increase comprehension in middle school students. Also, in this letter, you may want to invite parents with personal stories of immigration to speak to the students about how it feels to enter a new country with new customs and a new language.
The most important thing at this point is that students are now interested in reading the novel. Be quick to identify your reluctant readers because if you do not catch them early, they will be lost throughout the entire unit.
- Give the students a vocabulary quiz on the first 20 words of the
- Assess information included on the Character Charts.
- Pop quizzes are sometimes necessary to make sure students are keeping
up with the reading assignments during a novel study.