This lesson is excerpted from The Trait Crate: K
Overhead Transparency download

This simple but powerful text, peppered with whimsical illustrations, invites readers to explore the many ways chairs can be used: to sit, to entertain, and to explore. The chair can provide a place to enjoy lounging around, whiling away a summer day. But, as James demonstrates, it can also take the reader to imaginary places where surprising things happen.In this series of lessons, kindergartners enjoy exploring the many uses of chairs and create pieces of their own, using the ideas that spring from this book as well as from their own imaginations.

Ideas: A Definition for Primary Students
The ideas trait is about the writing's overall message and meaning. It is about the content of the writing. Ideas are strong when they are clear and focused, and move from the general to the specific. Though their texts may not be lengthy, young writers convey ideas by doing the following:

• drawing pictures with bold lines and lots of color
• experimenting with letters and words
• captioning pictures they create themselves and gather from sources
• talking about what happened to them or their characters
• asking questions and making lists about things that interest them
• noticing significance in little things and events

Sing-Along Trait Songs
Use the "Ideas Song" from the Trait Crate's poster pack and CD to help students understand the trait. Display the ideas poster for the whole class to see and, as you play the song,consider:

• singing along to the vocal or instrumental track, following the lyrics on the
poster as you go.
• adding hand motions to accompany the lyrics and reinforce key concepts.
• writing a new stanza to the song, posting it on a chart, and singing along to
the instrumental track.


Lesson #1: Finding the Right Topic

• a copy of My Chair
• drawing paper, pens, markers, pencils, paper
• overhead transparency of "Key Qualities of the Ideas Trait" (page 5)
• overhead transparency of "Finding the Right Topic" (page 6)
• pictures of animals from the Internet, magazines, or other sources
• overhead transparency of "Think About: Finding the Right Topic" (page 7)

What to Do:

1. Show students the overhead "Key Qualities of the Ideas Trait" and explain that when writers apply the ideas trait, they figure out what they want to say and write so the main idea is clear to the reader.

2. Tell students that sometimes it's hard coming up with a good idea for writing, so the lesson for today is called "Finding the Right Topic."

3. Read My Chair aloud to students, showing the pictures as you go.

4. Ask students to tell you what the book is about in one simple sentence. If answers
vary, encourage students to focus on the different kinds of chairs and ways they
are used. Tell them that they will be taking a close look at how the author, Betsy
James, makes that idea clear to the reader.

5. Display the overhead "Think About: Finding the Right Topic" and read it to
students. Tell them that working with the ideas trait means thinking creatively
about what they want to write before they begin to write. To give them a leg up,
point out that they answered the third bulleted question, "Can I tell you my idea
in a simple sentence?" after they first heard My Chair. Restate their answers.

6. Read My Chair a second time. Ask them to listen for how the author takes
ordinary ideas and makes them extraordinary-and to pay special attention to the
author's question, "Who does not use chairs?" Tell students they will be exploring
that question later.

7. After you finish reading, brainstorm a list of animals such as: dog rabbit horse snake cat cow pig

8. Encourage students to use their imaginations and think about the kinds of chairs these animals might use. Select an animal, display the overhead "Finding the Right Topic," and fill it in as in the example on the next page. Think aloud so students can see the ideas you are considering as you come up with them.

9. Ask each student to choose his or her favorite animal and discuss with a partner what a chair for that animal might look like and become. Remind students that the chairs in My Chair became: forts forests towers trucks cages oceans ships places to feel safe prisons intergalactic zoos gates places to think planes places to hide from grown-ups

10. Ask students to make pictures of their animals and chairs using drawing paper, pens, and markers.Use the Internet, magazines, and other sources in your classroom to find pictures of the animals and cut them out. Encourage students to be creative.For example, they may want to create for a monkey a chocolate-covered flying chair with jet-propelled engines.

11. Share the pictures and talk about them with the class, focusing on the
interesting ideas that students have expressed.

12. Review how each of their pieces shows evidence of using the ideas trait by walking them through the overhead "Think About: Finding the Right Topic"one more time:• What do I wonder about?

• What ordinary idea can I make extraordinary?
• Can I tell you my idea in a simple sentence?


Extension Activities:
• For students just beginning to write: Encourage students to draw more chairs for different animals. Have them create captions for the pictures, such as "Pig on a Cotton-Candy Chair."• For students who are writing independently: Ask students to tell a story about how their chosen animal uses the chair. Be sure they describe the chair in as much detail as possible, and then share the finished pieces with the class.