Category: Mini-Unit


My name is Sarah Coleman, and I am a senior at Concordia University, Ann Arbor.  My concentration is Elementary Education with a major in Language Arts, a minor in Early Childhood Education, and an LTD (Lutheran Teacher Diploma).  I have a passion for teaching and I love working with children. School has always come fairly easy to me, and I have always loved to read, but for some reason comprehension was always my weakest point. I would always day dream when reading my homework and then have to read the page 3 more times before I actually made it through.  Looking back, I never knew why I struggled so much, but after doing some research for this class, I may have found out why.

I am currently in a class entitled ‘Teaching Struggling Readers and Writers in the Elementary Classroom.’  The main focus of the class is in what ways students can struggle, possible reasons for their struggling, and strategies to help these struggling readers and writers.  We have talked about many topics from phonics and decoding to vocabulary and comprehension to various kinds of assessments.  Earlier in the year, one of our assignments was to create an annotated bibliography on a topic of our choice. In an effort to figure out my own comprehension struggles, I focused my research on why some students have problems with comprehension and what teachers can do to help them.  Though I would not consider myself a struggling reader, I did up with a couple possible solutions to my comprehension difficulties from my research.  One reason, the simpler one, may be that I was simply not interested in the readings.  The other reason is a bit more complex and maybe a little unexpected.  Many times teachers break reading down into very simplistic steps like decoding, spelling, vocabulary, etc. rather than looking at reading as a whole.  This could often turn students off, especially those who need a more holistic approach, like me.  I do better when I can see the big picture, rather than working in small steps.  I also believe that students are better able to comprehend when they can visualize what is going on in the story.  Creating a clear picture in a student’s mind is essential when helping them to understand.

I decided to use these ideas to create my unit plan because I figured that I am probably not the only person who has ever felt like this.  I also based my unit off of some ideas from the fourth grade classroom that I go to for fieldwork.  They are working on reading folk/fairy tales so I decided to go along with that theme.  I also kept my case study child in mind when creating this unit to try to play to some of her strengths as well, in hopes that I will get to try some of it out with her.  I hope this unit fun and helpful as you work with not only struggling readers and writers, but all other students as well.


It is so important for students to be able to understand what they are reading, or the whole purpose of reading is null and void.  I geared the following unit toward struggling readers, especially those struggling with comprehension so they will be able to enjoy what they read. It will work best with a small group of students working with a teacher; though using it in a whole class setting would be beneficial as well.  Students will use a variety of strategies to work on comprehension including some of the strategies recommended in my annotated bibliography.  More specifically, student will create a visual in their head, use graphic organizers, and summarize what they read. Using these strategies and more, students will be better equipped to understand what they read and learn to enjoy reading and writing.

Understanding what you read

  • Highlight details in the story about important characters and events
  • Use a ‘Somebody Wanted But So’ Chart to organize events
  • Write a coherent summary based on the chart

Compare and Contrast two versions of the same story

  • Use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast a book and movie of the same story
  • Write about the biggest difference between the two and how it changed the story
  • Use details from the book as a basis for your argument

On the completion of this unit students will be able to:

  • Use a text to describe important characters and events in the story.
  • Compare and contrast a book and a movie about Snow White using the book to validate the movie’s interpretation of the story
  • Organize their thoughts and ideas in a logical way in order to write summaries and ideas in an organized fashion.

The pre-assessment should take place before the first lesson, and it will be very informal.  The teacher will ask what the students already know about the story of Snow White.  Have the students read the book? Seen the movie?  Do they know what happens already?  The teacher should get a good feel for how well the students already know the story or what version of it they know.

Lesson 1

  • Lesson Title/Topic: Understanding the Story by Looking at the Details
  • Subject Area: Reading
  • Grade: 4th
  • Time Available: 1 hour


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.3 Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Objectives– Through these learning activities, the student will be able to:

  • Highlight important events and character descriptions as they read the book.
  • Summarize the story, using the “Somebody Wanted But So” Chart
  • Write an organized summary of Snow White from the chart in paragraph form


1) Show the cover of Snow White and ask: what do you think is going to happen in this book? If they already know the story of Snow White, ask: what scene do you think the picture on the cover is portraying? Is this how you pictured the characters looking?

2) Explain to students what they will be doing by saying: We are going to read a version of Snow White today.  We will do some writing activities to finish up, and then tomorrow we will watch a movie about the same story. You will compare the two so make sure you pay close attention to all story.

3) Have a print out of the words for students, and give each student their own copy.

4) Say to students: You have your own copy to follow along with while we read.  We will read the book twice.  The first time, I just want you to follow along with me. Read the book through once. (Reading through twice may not be necessary if all the students already know the story.  This can be determined by the pre-assessment.  If they are familiar, skip the first reading.)

5) Say: Now as we read, I want you to highlight in pink what you think is important about a character. In green you will highlight important events that happen. Ask if there are any questions about what happened in the story.  See if children can answer the questions the next time they read.

6) Read the book through again. After each page (or a couple pages if there are few words on a page) stop and give students a moment to highlight what they think is important on that page.  Ask students to give you a one or two sentence summary of what happened on that page.

7) When finished reading, ask students if they have any questions. Ask: were your questions from earlier answered this time?

8) Give each student a “Somebody Wanted But So” Chart (found below).  Fill this chart out in class, giving the first one as a model.  Somebody is the queen.  She wanted to be the most beautiful. But Snow White was prettier than her. So she plotted to kill Snow White. Work step by step with the students, filling out as many of these as the students can come up with.  If students get stuck, ask questions to get them thinking and tell them to reference the highlighted parts in their books.

9) When you finish the chart as a class, say: I want you to use the chart to write a paragraph summarizing the story.  Keep the events of the story in order and only include the details that are important to the story.

10) As students are working on the summary, collect their books so that they only use their charts to write the summary.


Look over the highlighted parts of each student’s book.  Make sure that what they highlighted is essential to the characters and the events in the story, and that they didn’t miss anything. This will tell you if they understand the story and are picking up on the main ideas.  Also, read their summaries when they turn them in to make sure their writing is in a logical sequence and they are using complete sentences.


For ELLs, have them put a question mark in the story by words that they do not know.  After the lesson, pull students aside to help them figure out what those words mean before they write their paragraph.

Resources Needed:

  • Snow White: A Tale From the Brothers Grimm, Illustrated by Charles Santore
  • Copies of the book for each student
  • Pink and Green highlighters for each student
  • Somebody Wanted But So chart for each student



Lesson 2

  • Lesson Title/Topic: Comparing book and video version of Snow White
  • Subject Area: Reading
  • Grade: 4th
  • Time Available: An hour and a half slot to watch the movie; then 30 minutes for the lesson


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.7 Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.

Objectives– Through these learning activities, the student will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast the book and video versions of the story of Snow White
  • Write a paragraph about the biggest difference from the book to the video in terms of character or plot


1) If there were any major issues with what students highlighted as important from the last lesson, make sure to address those.  It is important that students understand the key points in the story for this next lesson especially.

2) Say to students: We are going to watch a movie of Snow White, but I want you to keep in mind the book we read yesterday.  As you watch, think about how the movie is similar or different than the book.

3) When the video is over, hand out the Venn Diagram Chart. Work on this together with the students.  Ask: What are some things that are different between the book and movie in regards to character and the events that happen?  As students name some things, have them write it down.

4) Ask: what are some of the major things that were the same? Have students write this down on the chart as well.  (It might be a good idea to print the chart on larger paper so students will have more room to write.)

5) Say: Now I want you to circle the event or character that you think is the biggest difference between the two.  What did you write down that you think changed the story the most?

6) After you circle that, I want you to write about why you think this was the biggest difference, and what impact or effect it had on the story.


Listen and observe children as they suggest answers for the Venn Diagram.  Collect students Venn Diagrams and paragraphs that they write.  Use these pieces of writing to determine if the students understood the differences between the book and movie.  The paragraph will also show you if the students understand the effect on the whole story based on the differences.


For students who have trouble writing, have them copy down what other students are writing on the Venn Diagram as you go through it in class.

Resources Needed:

  • 1937 Version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Movie
  • Venn Diagram Chart

The final project for this unit will consist of a picture and writing to go along with it.  Students will pick a scene from the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs video that they think should have been done differently based on the book.   They will illustrate how they think the scene should have looked.  To go along with their illustration, they will write at least one page describing their picture.  In their writing, they will include the following:

  • What part of the story their scene is from
  • Why that scene in the movie should have been different
  • A description of their illustration and why they illustrated the scene the way they did
  • References from the book to explain why their scene is more accurate than the one in the movie using some of the important characteristics and events talked about in Lesson 1
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