Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Roll With the Punches: What Do You Know?

Martha Simmons


Through a cooperative group activity, students activate prior knowledge about life in the South during the Great Depression in preparation for reading the novel, [Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry].


The student extends and applies previously learned prereading knowledge and skills of the sixth grade with increasingly complex reading selections and assignments and tasks.


-Copy of the novel (Taylor, Mildred D. [Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry]. New York; Puffin Books, 1976.)
-Chalk, markers, transparency with markers and overhead projector, or computer presentation projector


1. Put students into heterogeneous reading groups of 3 or 4 depending on class size.
2. Arrange the classroom desks into groups of 3 or 4.
3. Write the instructions for group roles and making the KWL chart on the board, a transparency, or on a PowerPoint presentation.
4. Obtain and read the novel.


1. Announce to students that they are going to read a novel, but don't reveal the title to them yet.

2. Inform them that throughout the novel, they will be working in groups to read, complete assignments and activities, and study for tests and quizzes. Each group member will also be responsible for performing specific duties:
Leader - insures that all tasks are completed
Timekeeper/recorder - keeps time and records group assignments
Resource Manager - gets materials
Cheerleader - monitors and encourages appropriate group behavior

3. Instruct students to complete the following tasks within 10 minutes:
-assign each group member a role
-decide on a group name
-record group name and the assigned roles on a piece of paper
-submit paper to teacher

4. Next, ask students to divide a piece of paper into three sections and label each section 'K', 'W', and 'L.' Explain that this stands for 'What do I Know;' 'What do I Want to know;' and 'What have I Learned.'

5. Then explain that the novel takes place in the South during a time called 'The Great Depression.' Instruct them to list everything they've heard, seen, read, etc. about life in the South during the 1930's in the 'K' column. This should be done individually.

6. Tell them to share their lists within their groups. If a group member has something that they know to be incorrect, discuss it. Also, have them add things to their lists that were left off.

7. Now conduct a whole class discussion. Have groups share from their lists. Take this time to dispel misinformation. (For example, invariably someone will say that slavery existed during this era.) Also guide responses towards the concept of segregation and hard times, etc.

8. At this point, student knowledge should be clearer. Now, ask them to individually think of one thing they would like to know about this era. Have students write it in the 'W' column.

9. Repeat the process. Discuss in groups and then whole group discussion in class.

10. Tell students that many of their questions will be answered by reading the novel. They may now be wondering about the 'L' column. Inform them that the class will revisit this chart when they finish the novel and complete that column then.

11. Introduce the novel to the students. Show them the book cover, share past experiences, but don't tell them the story yet. Instead, tell them you want them to make a prediction. Read the synopsis on the back of the book. Then tell students, 'Based on what you've heard, what does your group predict is going to happen in the novel?'

12. Give them a few minutes to discuss their predictions within the group. Then have each group share. At this point, students will be very eager to begin reading.


This is a formative assessment for the purpose of insuring that each student's prior knowledge has been adequately activated for the successful reading of the novel. Students are ready if they have a general understanding of the concepts of Segregation and the Great Depression. If you cannot determine this through observation during the whole class discussion, ask each group leader to conduct a quick oral quiz on each group member. When all group members are ready, he/she should report to you.

To verify understanding of the KWL prereading strategy, check the plausibility of responses on the students' charts. A debriefing session at the end of the class period concerning the use of this strategy with other reading material will help students realize how they can apply the KWL technique to other situations.


ESE Modifications and lower performing students:
1. Have students write out on the K, W, L chart the title that each letter stands for. Example: 'K, What Do I Know'; 'W, What Do I Want To Know', and 'L, What Have I Learned.'
2. Discuss appropriate procedures for small group discussions. For example: talk one at a time, be respectful of others' opinions and ideas, keep with your group, include everyone in the work, stay on task, encourage others to contribute, use indoor voices, and raise hands for permission to speak.
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