Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Novel Study Unit

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3rd, 4th, 5th
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With humor, heart, and an ear for the aches and triumphs of family life, Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing tells the story of nine-year-old Peter Hatcher and his “biggest problem”: his little brother Fudge, who is constantly meddling with Peter’s things and sucking up all of their parents’ attention.

NOTE: This unit does NOT include an answer key. Though some questions here are designed to assess comprehension, the overall objective is to promote discussion, critical inquiry and the development of argument-building skills. Most prompts here are open-ended so a variety of responses will be "correct," depending on how well-supported they are. If you are looking for a unit with multiple choice or fill-in-the-blanks questions you can quickly match against an answer key, this is not the right unit for you.

This is a Common Core-aligned literature study unit for use with this 1970s classic and includes the following features:

• Literature Response Questions for each chapter of the novel. The questions are grouped for differentiated instruction into Comprehending, Analyzing, and Connecting sections. The comprehension questions are appropriate for younger and/or struggling students and English language learners. The questions that involve analysis ask students to think critically and to support their conclusions with textual evidence. The Connecting section questions ask students to identify connections or disconnections between the book and their own lives, prompting them to explore how some things (usually cultural institutions and technology) have changed since the book was published in the early 1970s, and how other things have remained the same. Several of the lit response questions can also be used as prompts for longer writing assignments. The novel raises some tough and complicated questions about family dynamics, and the prompts here ask students to grapple with and reflect on personal experience with these issues. There are some questions geared toward English Language learners that ask students to decode idioms with which native English speakers will probably be familiar.

• Several short mentor text exercises designed for use with a writers’ workshop program. Each exercise asks students to read as writers—to pay close attention to elements of craft—and apply the mentor author’s writing techniques to their own works in progress. Some include student writing samples that model approaches to applying the mentor author techniques under consideration.

• “Sound it Out!” and “Poetry in Motion…Verbs: They Move You!,” two “word bank” handouts that list verbs to help students achieve precision in their sensory descriptions. The handouts are identical but reprinted with several of the exercises so you won’t need to rifle through the packet repeatedly. Included are links to colorful, poster-sized PDF versions of the lists you can upload to a print shop and have printed for classroom display

• Vocabulary quizzes, one for every 2-3 chapters. Rather than ask for definitions, instructions here ask students to use each vocabulary word in their own sentences because I’ve found that this exercise tells me a lot more about how much students understand the words than asking them for definitions does. Since the document is in MS Word, however, you can easily change the directions to create assignments that meet your own objectives.

• 4 vocabulary practice crossword puzzles with solutions.

• A vocabulary study sheet, where all words are listed with easy to understand definitions and parts of speech (not dictionary definitions that can often be confusing).

• A link to a set of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing vocabulary flashcards archived on FlashcardMachine.com. From this URL you can download a PDF copy of the flashcards, or let students use the “study session” feature on the website or the Flashcard Machine app for ipad or android devices. Directions for three flashcard games are included with the link.

• Flexible formatting. This document is in Microsoft Word, so you can easily modify or delete anything here to fit your own class’s needs. The cover image and crossword puzzles are embedded PDF files so they will take a little longer to load. If you want to use the unit as-is, simply save as a PDF to preserve existing formatting. In this copy of the unit, there is space provided below questions and prompts for students to write in. If you would like to use the prompts to guide whole-class discussions (and/or conserve paper if you plan to reproduce the pages as hand-outs), a link is provided to download a single spaced version of this unit formatted to fit on a projector screen.
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