Anansi and the Talking Watermelon
About the Book
Text Type: Fiction/Folktale
Page Count: 16
Word Count: 876
Anansi is a clever spider who often tricks his friends with his clever tongue. In this retelling, while Anansi is trapped inside a watermelon, he tricks Possum into believing that the watermelon can talk. Possum proceeds to bring the watermelon to King Bear, who is outraged and throws the fruit, which frees Anansi when it lands and cracks open. Illustrations support the text.
About the Lesson
Targeted Reading Strategy
- Make, revise, and confirm predictions
- Use the reading strategy of making, revising, and confirming predictions
- Analyze characters
- Identify interesting verbs in text
- Recognize multiple-syllable words
- Book -- Anansi and the Talking Watermelon (copy for each student)
- Chalkboard or dry erase board
- Prediction, character traits, syllables worksheets
Indicates an opportunity for student to mark in the book. (All activities may be completed with paper and pencil if books are reusable.)
- Content words: salivated, shimmied, gorged, pondered, absurd, Eureka, to and fro, realizing, Raccoon, Gopher, Squirrel, oddity, grizzly, Possum, acres, unison, treacherous, skittered, rejoiced, furiously
- Discuss traditional folktales that students have read or heard of, such as other Anansi tales or How Zebras Got Their Stripes. Ask them to name some common elements of folktales (people questioning the elements of the world, animals talking, wise person helping to solve a problem, etc.).
Preview the Book
Introduce the Book
- Tell students that a fun way to read that will help them understand a story is to guess, or predict, what they think will happen in a book.
- Give students a copy of the book and have them preview the front and back covers and read the title. Have students discuss what they see on the covers and offer ideas as to what kind of book this is and what it might be about.
Introduce the Strategy: Make, revise, and confirm predictions
- Model how to make a prediction as you preview the book.
- Think-aloud: Let's look at the front cover. I see a spider and a watermelon. Since the title of the book is Anansi and the Talking Watermelon, I think this might be a story about a spider named Anansi who finds a watermelon that talks. I'll have to read the book to find out.
- Encourage students to make predictions about what will happen to the spider in the book.
- Show students the title page. Talk about the information on the page (title of book, author's name, illustrator's name).
- As students read, they should use other reading strategies in addition to the targeted strategy presented in this section. For tips on additional reading strategies, click here.
Introduce the Vocabulary
- Remind students of the strategies they can use to work out words they don't know. For example, they can use what they know about letter and sound correspondence to figure out the word. They can look for base words, prefixes, and suffixes. They can use the context to work out meanings of unfamiliar words.
- Model how to apply word-attack strategies. Direct students to page 4. Have them find the word gorged. Model how they can use context clues to figure out the meaning of the word. Ask students to look for words in the sentences around the unfamiliar word that might provide clues to the word's meaning. (Anansi found the ripest watermelon, Anansi gorged himself as the juices slid down his legs, Anansi had his fill.) Ask students to look at the illustrations for clues as to the meaning of the unfamiliar word. (The picture shows Anansi opening a ripe watermelon.) Tell students that, from the context clues, you have decided that gorged must mean ate greedily until very full. Have students follow along as you reread the sentence on the page to confirm the meaning of the word.
- For additional tips on teaching word-attack strategies, click here.
Set the Purpose
- As students read, have them make predictions about what will happen based on what the characters say, do, and think. Remind them to revise or confirm their predictions as they learn more about the characters.
- Give students the prediction worksheet to fill out as they make, revise, and confirm their predictions. Tell them to fill in the first column, What I predict will happen, before they begin reading.
- Guide the reading: Have students read to the end of page 8. Tell them to read to find out if the spider finds a watermelon that talks. Have them underline the words or phrases in the book that tell about what he finds. If they finish before everyone else, they can go back and reread.
- When they have finished reading, ask students to tell what they have learned so far about Anansi and the talking watermelon.
- Model making, confirming, and revising predictions.
- Think-aloud: My prediction was that a spider named Anansi would find a watermelon that could talk. It looks as if the spider's name is Anansi, so that part of my prediction is correct. But the talking watermelon didn't talk on its own, so that part of my prediction is incorrect. From what I've read about Anansi, it sounds as if he is pretty clever. I think he will fool everyone who hears the watermelon talk. I'll have to keep reading to find out if my new prediction is correct.
- Have students turn to page 6 in the book. Read the sentence I will trick Possum into thinking that his melon talks! Ask students what this tells them about how Anansi treats others. Ask them if they think he will learn how to treat others with more respect.
- Encourage students to continue to make, revise, and confirm their predictions as they read the remainder of the story. Tell them to fill out the middle column of their worksheet, Changes in my prediction.
Tell students to make a small question mark in their books beside any word they do not understand or cannot pronounce. These can be addressed in the discussion that follows.
Reflect on the Reading Strategies
- Ask students what words they marked in their books. Use this opportunity to model how they can read these words using decoding strategies and context clues.
- Discuss how making predictions about what will happen in the story keeps them actively involved in the reading process and helps them understand and remember what they read.
- Think-aloud: I predicted that Anansi was so clever that he would fool everyone into thinking that the watermelon could talk. While he did fool most everyone, he didn't fool the king. The king got angry and threw the watermelon, so Anansi was able to escape after all. Tell students to fill in the last column of their worksheet, What actually happened.
Teach the Comprehension Skill: Analyze characters
- Discussion: Ask students to identify the characters in the story (Anansi, Possum, Raccoon, Gopher, Rat, Squirrel, King Bear) and to say what they can tell about them from the illustrations. Ask students how they got to know the main character, Anansi (through the author's words). Ask how they think the story might sound if Anansi were telling the story.
- Introduce and model the skill: Explain that there are many ways to learn about a character in a story. One way is to look at a character's words. Another way is to look for things the character does. Tell students that a character's words, thoughts, and actions are how the author lets the reader get to know the character and form an opinion about him or her.
- Read pages 6 and 7. Ask students what Anansi's words tell about him. Remind students that Anansi thinks to himself, “I know! I will trick Possum into thinking that his melon talks!” and when Possum said that watermelons can't talk, Anansi says, “Possum, you have never been a good listener.” (Anansi is clever, tricky, resourceful, etc.)
- Read page 7 again. Ask students what the author's words tell about Possum. (He is gullible, trusting, etc.)
- Check for understanding: Read pages 13 and 14. Ask students what the king's words and actions tell about him. (He is impatient, has a temper, and is full of himself.)
- Independent practice: Have students complete the character traits worksheet. When they are done, discuss their responses.
Extend the discussion: Discuss the plot and whether or not students think it is believable and why. Instruct students to use the last page of the book to write which character they liked best and why. Have students read their responses to the group.
Grammar and Mechanics: Identify interesting verbs
- Review that a verb names an action. Explain that some verbs make sentences sound much more interesting than others. Write the following sentences on the board:
Anansi walked down the web.
Anansi shimmied down the web.
Ask a volunteer to come up to the board and circle the verb in each sentence (walked, shimmied). Ask students which sentence sounds more interesting to the reader. Explain that an author's choice of interesting verbs can make a book more fun to read.
- Relate the above example to the concept of monetary worth. Ask students which is worth more, a dollar or a dime? Write dollar and dime on the board. Ask students if they were to assign an amount to the words walked and shimmied, which would be worth more? (shimmied) Write shimmied under dollar and walked under dime.
- Check for understanding: Tell students to turn to page 4 and read the last sentence silently while you read aloud. Ask them to identify the verbs (gorged, slid). Ask if they think the verbs are dollar words or dime words (dollar). Ask a volunteer to give an example sentence using verbs that mean the same thing but aren't as interesting (He ate the melon, and the juices ran down his legs.). Write the four verbs on the board in the appropriate columns.
Independent practice: Have students work in pairs to reread page 15 and circle all of the verbs. Have them discuss the verbs and decide if they are dollar or dime words. If they think they are only dime words, have them come up with other verbs that are more interesting in the sentences. Discuss their ideas aloud.
Word Work: Multiple-syllable words
- Review or explain that a syllable is a part of a word that is spoken with an uninterrupted sound of the voice. Words are broken into syllables by their sound, and each syllable must have only one vowel sound.
- Tell students that in the dictionary, words are shown divided into syllables. Have a volunteer look up melon to see how it is written (mel-on). Point out that the pronunciation of the word follows the dictionary entry. This word is divided into two syllables. The accent mark after the first syllable (/mel/) tells the reader how to say the word, with emphasis on /mel/.
- Write the word carrying on the board. Have a volunteer divide the word into syllables (car/ry/ing). If necessary, model looking it up in the dictionary to find the answer. Explain that when a word has double consonants, as in this word's double r's, the syllable break comes between them.
- Write the word raccoon on the board. Ask a volunteer to divide the word into syllables or look it up in the dictionary (rac/coon). Explain that the two vowel sounds are /a/ and /oo/. There are also two syllables in lagoon, even though there are three vowels. This is because the double o's make one sound.
Check for understanding: Have students circle all of the multiple-syllable words they see on page 6 of the text (Anansi, watermelon, attempt, etc.). Then have them divide the words into correct syllables by writing them in the margins of the page (An/an/si, wa/ter/mel/on, at/tempt, etc.). Discuss answers aloud.
- Give students the syllables worksheet. When they are finished, discuss the correct divisions as a group.
- Allow students to read their books independently or with a partner. Encourage repeated timed readings of a specific section of the book. Additionally, partners can take turns reading parts of the book.
- Give students their books to take home to read with parents, caregivers, siblings, or friends.
Extend the Reading
- Show students how to make a web that will help them write character descriptions. Elicit headings, such as physical characteristics, family, age, friends, hobbies, pets, etc. Instruct students to first choose a character and write his or her name in the center circle of the web. Then have students fill in the web. When students have completed their webs, have them write short descriptive paragraphs using the information they have written and draw pictures of the characters. Post on a bulletin board titled "What a Character!"
Social Studies Connection
- Discuss with students the impact one's actions might have on others. Talk about how Anansi's decision to trick Possum impacted not only their day, but also that of Raccoon, Gopher, Rat, Squirrel, and King Bear. Relate this to student interaction and ask if they have ever had an experience where their actions affected others in a positive or negative way.
Monitor students to determine if they can:
- make logical predictions based on available pictures and text; revise and/or confirm predictions as they preview and read the book
- analyze the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the book's characters
- identify interesting verbs used in text
- successfully recognize and divide multiple-syllable words
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