Mme G.C. -Work in Progress

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January 2012

Mystery Box Writing

MYSTERY BOX (Directions)

This activity leads students to ask better,higher  level questions. I use it with PWIM /Inquiry. I have a box that I have decorated that says MYSTERY BOX on it. I have a photograph posted on the wall and I put an item in the box that is similar to the photograph. For example I have a winter photograph with Inuit people, husky dogs, a sled and fur. Once a week I choose an item, hide it in the box and have the children figure out what it is. For the husky dogs I used a beanie baby. For a winter coat I used a photo from the catalog. The children write in their writing notebooks. We call it Mystery Box Monday.

  • Not a guessing game.
  • Use a word that they can see in the photograph
  • Use process of elimination (not guessing) by using attributes like spatial, function, descriptive and temporal clues. (teach your students these terms)
  • Must have 12 correct responses before even attempting to name object.
  • Once students think they can name the object they must try to describe it more specifically.
  • Write down clues under yes or no section.
  • After the object has been identified turn clues into sentences.
  • Use sentences to create a descriptive paragraph about the object.
  • Try comparing mystery object to object in picture.
  • Always model your paragraph.  (I write mine while they are writing theirs using the same clues)

Below is how I make  the Anchor chart to work through with class. They then use the information to construct a descriptive or compare contrast paragraph. The first few times we write the paragraph as a class. Once they are comfortable with this process they write their paragraphs in pairs or individually.




Example: husky dog-as the students ask question,s I can only say yes or no.  I write the answers on the chart  to help with the writing later. When they reach number 12,I ask them what they think it is and to explain why. Often they are pretty sure by number 6. I do not let them guess. I tell them if they think they know, they need to ask questions that will describe it to see if they are right or if their thinking has changed. I then pulled the beanie baby dog out of the box and we talk about what is the same or different. It is a great time to use a Venn diagram.




  1. it is soft
  2. has fur
  3.  black
  4. pulls things
  5. you can pet it
  6. it is strong
  7. has a tail
  8. eats food
  9. can lick with its tongue
  10. runs fast
  11. has sharp teeth
  12. alive
  1. can’t eat it
  2. isn’t made of wood
  3. not red
  4. not blue
  5. not bloody
  6. not dead


Using Mentor texts for comprehension-Alphabet Books

The Construction Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallota

We studied how to make an alphabet book with the grade one class. We studied multiple ABC books to see how the authors wrote and illustrated their work. I modeled my observations with Jerry Pallota’s book. The kids were very excited by the pictures in this book.





This lesson explains what I did…

 I connected to their prior learning by saying:

“You have been studying the construction site photograph in PWIM. We have also spent time looking at alphabet books during reading time. I found this book about construction sites that I’d like to share with you. I am really excited to share it because it is an alphabet book as well!”

 I activated their  listening by saying:

 “Listen to what the author has to say about a construction site. Listen to how he connects words to letters and the funny sounds he writes about.”

I Read aloud the text  and shared the  illustrations.

 I talked about what appealed to me as a reader  in how the author(s) presented the information. I talked about several pages I had sticky marked

“I really liked the way the author used the first letter of the word to begin his writing.____ is for _____

  • I liked the great pictures he used to describe what he was writing about.
  • I liked the sounds he wrote to make the sounds the machines make
  • He used words to describe what he was talking about.”


   Student  activity. 

I have brought you some alphabet books to look at.  I’d like you to look at the books with your reading  partner and see if you notice anything the author does that helps you understand his message.

Reflections on student responses:

The kids loved this activity. They were so excited to look at all the alphabet books. They came up with a variety of observations from

“Each page has a big letter” to” the pictures go with the letters MMe GC!!! ” Each group was able to share what they had noticed and I was able to assess their viweing skills as well as some reading skills.

HINT:You Need a large collection of ABC books with a variety of topics and levels to allow the children to choose books they are interested in. The National FilmBoard even has an alphabet video to watch.

My next step will be to make a class alphabet book-perhaps on PIXIE??

1.     Concepts Addressed from Social Studies, Science, Mathematics, Other:

  • Observe and describe motion.
  • Observe that objects can move at different speeds. .
  • Identify some ways that machines move things. 

2.     Concepts and Processes Represented/Modeled from Language Arts:

  • Alphabet Books
  • Connecting the letter to the first letter in a word
  • Making a connection to first words and text
  • Writing about a letter word
  • Onomatopoeia ( inventive spelling of what the sound is)




Sticking to Seven Strategies is easier to remember…

Super 7 Comprehension Strategies


May also be referred to or include:

Making Connections

  • Activating/Accessing Prior Knowledge
  • Using connections:
  • Text to self—Text to text—Text to World
  • using connections/schema


  • Creating visual/mental image(s) to construct meaning
  • Imagery/imaging
  • Visualization
  • Organizing (when creating a visual through a graphic organizer)


  • Reading between the lines
  • Drawing conclusions
  • Interpreting
  • Making predictions (some writers regard this as an individual strategy)
  • Reflecting on reading

Determining Importance

  • Determining topic and main idea
  • Determining author’s message
  • Utilizing knowledge of narrative or expository text features/structures
  • Determining relevance


  • Taking stock of meaning
  • Monitoring meaning
  • Getting the “gist”
  • “Aha” experience (new insight)
  • Searching and selecting
  • Refining your thinking

Monitoring and Repairing Comprehension

  • Applying “fix-up” or “fix-it” strategies
  • “Look–Backs” (Duffy p. 109)
  • “Clicking and Clunking”



Clarifying meaning

  • Duffy, G. (2003) Explaining ReadingNew York, The Guilford Press
  • Harvey, S. & Goudvis, (2000) Strategies That Work. York, ME: Stenhouse 
  • McEwan, E. (2004) Seven Strategies of Highly Effective Readers. California.  Corwin Press.
  • Miller, D. (2002) Reading With Meaning.  Portland, Maine. Stenhouse Publishers
  • Kindrachuk 2007
  • McGregor, Tanny (2007) Comprehension Connections  Bridges to Strategic Reading  Heinemann

Adapted by Bishop, Goudie-Cloutier and Monahan 2012


Why We Study Words:

This anchor chart is what I used in a few grade one rooms to explain how we use our brains when we are classifying and sorting words in our word study. I start with an empty chart paper. I have the colour pictures and markers ready on the side.

I start by saying :” today we are going to talk about our brains”  I write the title and add the picture with the brain. We talk about how big their brain is and where it fits in their head.We talk about how nobody has an empty head and we are all learing at the same time even if we aren’t learning the same thing. Just like we have different eyes and hair and height we also have different brains.

I talk about how our brains like puzzles and patterns. We need to make our brain work hard so that it can grow. Next, I say that in order for our brain to grow we study those puzzles and patterns in every part of our lives and that is exercise for the brain.

We talk about neurons and dendrites at a very low-level and then I tell them that we have to keep thinking and making our brain work hard so that we can get smarter and smarter every time we work. They get really excited when I tell them they can leave smarter today, than when they came in this morning. Nobody says no when I ask “Do you want to get smarter?”

I review this anchor chart on a regular basis so that the children always know why they are doing what they are doing. I think if they know  what their job is and why it is important they are much more likely to be successful in the task at hand. I know there are much more technical ways to explain this but it is grade one and we are just opening a door for them to understand that they are in charge of their learning.

Super 7 Comprehension Strategies




Making Connections

Recalling prior knowledge and experiences to help construct meaning during and across reading as you develop ideas and concepts


Creating a mental image to help construct meaning


Using prior knowledge and textual clues to draw conclusions and form unique interpretations

Determining Importance

Distinguishing between important and unimportant information to identify key ideas or themes


Reviewing, sorting and sifting through information leading to new insight as thinking evolves

Monitoring and Repairing Comprehension

Monitoring understanding and knowing how to adjust when meaning breaks down



Asking questions before, during and after reading to deepen comprehension and focus attention on important components of text.

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