bridges.jpgUnit 3: Building Bridges with Unlikely Friends

In this third six-week unit, students explore both literal and figurative bridges.
They read how-to texts on building bridges and view these amazing structures on the Internet. Through realistic fiction, they examine the possibility of friendship in conflict-filled settings. Reading fantasy texts that depict animal experiences completes their exploration. Building on the writing of previous units, they write a letter to a character in Charlotte’s Web. Students also gather words from poetry and explore the meanings of idioms and words with common roots.

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Theme Essential Question
Why do authors use figurative language?

End of Unit Learning/Unit Overview

Focus Standards for the Unit:
LAFS.2.RI.2.6 Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
LAFS.2.RL.1.3 Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
LAFS.2.RL.2.7 Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.
LAFS.2.W.1.2 Write explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.
LAFS.2.L.1.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
LAFS.2.L.1.2(b) Use commas in greetings and closings of letters.
LAFS.2.L.2.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on Grade Two reading and content, choosing flexibly from an array of strategies.
LAFS.2.L.2.4(d) Use knowledge of the meaning of individual words to predict the meaning of compound words.

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Suggested Objectives

    • Read a how-to book.
    • Write an explanatory piece on how to do something.
    • Discern the difference between the use of literal and figurative language.
    • Discern authors’ techniques for describing characters.
    • Write friendly letters to one of the characters in a book.
    • Use commas correctly in the greeting and closing of a friendly letter.
    • Write responses to a letter from a character’s point of view.
    • Use knowledge of a root word, such as bridge, to predict the meaning of compound words and idioms.
    • Describe the use of riddles and other language in Haiku poetry.

Interdisciplinary Connections:

  • This unit teaches:
    • Art: Structural art (e.g., architecture and symmetry), quilts
    • Geography: World geography (e.g., as related to settings such as Jerusalem)
    • Science: Animals (e.g., habitats)

    This unit could be extended to teach:
    • Science: Animals (e.g., classifications)

Sample Activities:

  • Teacher Notes: This unit could be taught in three parts. First, start with “bridges” so that students see the bridge as both an architectural structure and a symbolic metaphor coming together. Students will then see how children are able to bridge cultural gaps through friendship. Then read the fictional works to further the theme of Unlikely Friends. Students will think about differences in characters such as Charlotte and Wilbur and the way they become friends. Finally, writing a friendly letter to a book character will help the students to think deeply about the fictional characters.

    Reading Literature, Speaking and Listening

    Introduce a book such as Snow in Jerusalem (Deborah da Costa, Ying-Hwa Hu, and Cornelius Van Wright) by reviewing how unlikely friends become friends by finding something in common. Tell the students that they are going to read a book about two children who were not friends but who found something in common anyway. As they read the story have the students focus on how the children find something in common to make a friendship. Talk about how these two characters faced a challenge and made a hard choice. (RL.2.3, RL.2.7)

    Art, Speaking and Listening

    Use the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Baltimore Museum of Art's websites to explore the tradition of album quilts. Discuss with students the reasons behind making such quilts. How would quilting build strong friendships? What types of images do you see in these quilts? What do the images tell us about the people who made these quilts? (SL.2.4)

    Art, Speaking and Listening

    Using paper squares and cut-out images, divide the class into (unlikely) groupings of three to four students. Have them discuss what type of album quilt they would like to produce as a group—what event should they commemorate? Using teamwork, each group should produce a small “quilt” of images. (SL.2.1, SL.2.5)

    Narrative Writing

    To encourage communication among unlikely friends, arrange for your students to communicate with students from another class in a place far away. Begin an e-mail or pen-pal correspondence with students from another class in a contrasting location. Setting parameters for what can be shared, ask students to write letters introducing themselves and asking the other student about him/herself. The purpose of this activity would be to find ways the students are similar and the ways the students are different from one another. This writing activity could also be done writing from whole class to whole class instead of students writing to one another. (W.2.6, W.2.5, L.2.2b)

    Reading Literature, Narrative Writing

    Read aloud the book Charlotte’s Web (E. B. White) to the class. After you have finished the book, have the students connect with the characters in the book by writing friendly letters. Students should choose one of the characters in Charlotte’s Web and write the character a letter. You may say, ”Write a letter to one of the characters in Charlotte’s Web. Explain why you chose the character, what you like about him or her, and ask the character a question.” Require proper use of punctuation and form for the letters. Revise the letters and edit for spelling and punctuation. Then, have the students trade letters and write back to a classmate as if they were the classmate’s chosen character. For example, if a child receives a letter addressed to Wilbur, she would write a letter back as if she were Wilbur and answer the question asked. (L.2.2b, RL.2.7, W.2.5)

    Reading Informational Text, Language Usage

    After reading about bridges, have students predict the meaning of compound words that contain the word “bridge”: footbridge, drawbridge, flybridge, and bridgework. Repeat the activity using another root word such as water: waterbed, watercolor, watermelon, waterlog, watershed, waterproof, watertight, rainwater, waterway, and waterspout. Extend this lesson by discussing idioms using the word bridge such as “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” “that’s water under the bridge,” and “don’t burn your bridges.” (L.2.4d)

    Reading Informational Text, Informative Writing, Speaking and Listening

    Begin a class discussion by asking the students: “If a real hippopotamus had no other companions, what other kind of animal could you imagine her having for a friend?” Be sure to require good reasons for their opinions as they answer. Read the book Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship (Isabella Hatkoff) aloud. When you are finished reading, have the students discuss what the author (a six-year-old girl) wanted to accomplish by publishing the book, using questions such as: “What did she want to explain? Describe? What questions did she want to answer? Why are there so many photographs?” Ask students to write a paragraph explaining how the two animals in the story became friends. Writing prompt: “After reading about these unlikely friends (i.e., Owen and Mzee), write a paragraph explaining how the two animals in the story became friends.” (SL.2.6, W.2.2, RI.2.6, RI.2.3, RI.2.7)

    Reading Informational Text, Informative Writing

    Introduce a chapter from Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design, Build, and Test. This is an informational book, but it is also a how-to book. It will teach how to build bridge structures in the classroom or at home. Read the text to the children and allow them to note that the how-to section is set up as a series of steps to follow. Gather the supplies and allow the students to follow the directions to experiment with building a bridge. Discuss how diagrams help to explain the directions. Writing prompt: “After building a bridge in the classroom or at home, write an explanatory paragraph telling someone else how you made your bridge.” (SL.2.6, W.2.2, RI.2.6, RI.2.3, RI.2.7)

    Reading Poetry, Vocabulary, Speaking and Listening

    As you read from the poetry collection If Not for the Cat (Jack Prelutsky), explain to students the Haiku style of poetry. Point out to the students that these poems are very short, but they make you think. As you read a poem, keep the accompanying illustration hidden until students try to guess the animal being described. These poems are filled with words that may be new to your students. When you are finished reading (reciting) each poem, ask students to choose one new word to save in the word bank. (L.2.4e, L.2.5, RL.2.4)

    Reading Literature, Speaking and Listening

    As students read the Henry and Mudge books, challenge them to look closely at the characters. Before the first chapter, ask the students to be ready to describe Henry and Mudge. Using sticky notes or whiteboards, require each student to write down two characteristics of each character. Although one of the characters is a dog and one is a boy, they have a wonderful friendship. Have students share at least two words to describe Henry and two words to describe Mudge. Discuss what can be learned about friendship through these stories. (RL.2.7, L.2.5b)

    Reading Literature, Speaking and Listening

    Introduce the idea of a bridge as a metaphor by reading the book Pop’s Bridge (Eve Bunting). (Help the students think of more metaphors to reinforce the meaning of this important term.) In this book, a group of boys experience the sacrifice involved in bridge building and the joy that comes with friendship. Discuss the literal bridge in the book and the way the bridge served as a link not only between two places, but also between two people. Introduce the following Isaac Newton quotation: “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” Discuss what Isaac Newton may have meant by his comment. (RL.2.7)

Online Resources:

Sample Literacy Block
Reading Workshop
Familiar Reading (15 min)
Word Study (30 min)
Read Aloud (15 min)
Reading Workshop (1 hour)
Book Talk (5 min)
Mini-Lesson (10 min)
Independent Reading-Guided Reading-Independent Research (40 min)
Sharing-Reflection-Feedback (5 min)

Writing Workshop
Writers Talk/Mini-Lesson-Status of the Class (10 min)
Independent Writing/Guided Writing/Investigations (45 min)
Sharing/Reflection/Feedback (5-10 min)

Compound word
Informative/explanatory writing
Friendly Letter
How-to Books