|Students play with words as they explore how prepositions work in Ruth Heller’s picture book Behind the Mask. After investigating the part of speech, students compose prepositional poems, which they publish in a multimodal format modeled on Heller’s text.
Lesson originally published in October 2002. Revised November 2007 by Scott Filkins, NCTE staff.
| From Theory to Practice
|“Grammar worksheets and grammar textbooks have their place and their purposes, but their limitations are serious,” cautions Brock Haussamen in his chapter “Discovering Grammar” from Grammar Alive! A Guide for Teachers (16). As an alternative, he suggests that “we should teach grammar from authentic texts as much as possible. You can use the literature students are reading . . . to demonstrate any grammar lesson. You can also use the students’ own writing to illustrate points of grammar—to illustrate not just errors but effective grammar as well” (17).
This lesson takes Haussamen’s advice to heart and provides a series of activities that explores the dynamic connections that occur in a reading and writing workshop, experiences that flow seamlessly between students playing with language in an authentic shared text to building meaning in their own writing.
Haussamen, Brock, with Amy Benjamin, Martha Kolln, Rebecca S. Wheeler, and members of NCTE’s Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar. Grammar Alive! A Guide for Teachers. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2003.
- identify prepositions in a text and discuss their role in writing, based upon a shared reading experience.
- apply their understanding of prepositions to a poetry writing experience.
- publish their work using a combination of image and text.
Instruction and Activities
- Read Behind the Mask (Grosset & Dunlap, 1995) before meeting with students so that you are prepared to read the book aloud and discuss the text with the class.
- Brainstorm a list of possible prompting questions to invigorate the discussion if necessary.
- Make copies of the Prepositions Handout and the Prepositional Poem Checklist.
- If possible, make arrangements for students to meet in a computer lab or classroom for Sessions Two and Three. Prepare the computers by making bookmarks to the two student interactives used in the lesson: Word Mover and Multigenre Mapper.
- Test the Word Mover and the Multigenre Mapper on
your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have
the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in
from the technical support page.
- Read Behind the Mask by Ruth Heller to the class, allowing for student participation. Encourage students to play with the language of the text as you share the picture book.
- When you finish reading the book, ask students to share what they noticed about the book. Answers will vary from bright colorful illustrations to variations in font. Note their answers on the board or chart paper for reference as you discuss the text.
- Once students have identified such features as the use of very descriptive words or the variety in text font, shift to questions about how prepositions work in the text.
- Encourage students to identify the words in the text that are prepositions and how prepositions work.
- Pass out copies of the Prepositions Handout to help students identify the prepositions in the picture book.
- Take notes on their observations for reference in later sessions.
- Review the information on prepositions from the previous session.
- Share a poem from the Sample Prepositional Poems Web site with the class.
- After reading a sample, ask students to identify the prepositions in the poem and to discuss how the part of speech is working. Students can refer to the Prepositions Handout from the previous session as they review the sample poems.
- Pass out copies of the Prepositional Poem Checklist, and use the questions to analyze the sample poems.
- Repeat the process with additional example poems until you are satisfied that students understand how to identify and use the part of speech in grammatically correct ways.
- Invite students to create their own preposition poem, using their writers notebook or the Word Mover. Depending upon experience level of students and needed accommodations, students can work in partners or independently.
- Allow enough time for students to complete their poems in one sitting since users cannot save in this interactive.
- Demonstrate how to create new preposition magnets that suit the needs of their poems.
- As students work, ask them to compare their drafts to the questions on the Prepositional Poem Checklist and make adjustments as appropriate.
- Make sure students have a printed or handwritten copy of their poem for use in the next session.
- Explain that the class will return to the poems written in the previous session and publish them in a style based on Behind the Mask.
- Briefly review a few key images and sections of text from the book.
- Ask students to think about how they can make all or part of their poem come to life in a similar fashion. Encourage students to share and discuss their ideas.
- Introduce the ReadWriteThink interactive Multigenre Mapper.
- Demonstrate how to include details in the different portions of the tool:
- Write the title of the poem in Blank A.
- Write the student’s name in Blank B.
- Write the text of the poem in Blank C.
- Illustrate the poem in the drawing box.
- Remind students that their illustrations should show what one or more preposition(s) in their poem is/are doing.
- Suggest that students use the Prepositional Poem Checklist to evaluate their poems before printing the final copies.
- Have students print their poems and display them in the classroom, hallway, or lobby display case.
- Preposition Poems
- Samples of student-created poems relying heavily on prepositions from a site designed by English teacher Janice E. Smith.
- Prepositions for Time, Place, and Introducing Objects
Prepositions of Direction
- These two pages from the Purdue OWL provide in-depth explanations of different families of prepositions and provide examples targeted at English language learners who may find the subtle meanings harder to understand. The resource can be used for the teacher’s reference or as needed in class.
- As students work on their poems, watch for indications that they understand the grammatical form and function of prepositions. Note how students work together, rely on their own knowledge, and consult to reference information in the classroom.
- Respond to students’ poems using the Prepositional Poem Checklist as a guide.
3 - Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
4 - Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
5 - Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
6 - Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.