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Text Summary
How Zebras Got Their Stripes is a folktale about two donkeys who are tired of working and want an easier life. They meet a wise man who devises a solution to their problem: to turn the donkeys into zebras. 

Reader Supports
  • Good picture support to enhance interpretation
  • Repeated use of story words
  • Story progresses logically from page to page
  • Print is laid out with clear spaces between words and lines.

Reader Challenges
  • Increased vocabulary/high-utility words
  • Less reliance on patterns
  • Concept of cause and effect

Lesson Objectives
Reading Strategies
As children work to understand the story, you will use a number of reading strategies. The targeted reading strategy in How Zebras Got Their Stripes is: Predicting before and during reading. Recall and comprehension can improve when readers identify what they know about a topic before they even open the book.

Word and Print Skills
The long vowel a sound

Word Work
High utility words, adjectives and syllables.

You will likely address a number of comprehension skills as children work to understand How Zebras Got Their Stripes. The targeted comprehension strategy in the story is: Brainstorming cause and effect.

Visual Learning
Helping children to develop an understanding of the importance of noticing picture details will increase their word recognition, fluency, and story comprehension.

Targeted Vocabulary Words
High Utility Words

To, two, into

Content Words
Appreciated, finished, patient, paint, problem, worked, relax, fooled, pleaded

Before Reading

Introducing the Book
  • Tell children that the story they are going to read is called a folktale. It is a make-believe story that has been handed down among the people of a region or country for a long time.
  • Provide examples of folktales familiar to children. Help them to make a personal connection by asking if they have heard stories from a parent or family member that were retold to them by their parents. Explain that these stories could be called folktales because they are handed down from family members over time.
  • Direct attention to the cover of the book. Point out the title and the illustrator’s names. Point to the name of the author. Tell them that the story is a retelling and no one knows who the exact author is. Ask children to notice the book’s title. Ask: Does the design of the words make you think of a zebra? How? Why did the illustrator use this design? What can you learn from the cover of a book?
  • Turn to the title page. Tell children that the same information on the cover appears on this page except for one thing. Ask them if what they see that is different from the cover illustration. Ask: What do you think this illustration is telling you? (Setting of the story.)
  • Ask children to predict what will happen in the story. Write their predictions on chart paper. Tell them you will compare these predictions with other predictions they will make when you read the story together.

Building Background
  • Introduce the content words and write the high utility words on the Word Wall.
  • Define the words patient and impatient. Ask children to provide an example of being patient. Ask: Have you been impatient? What happened to cause you to become impatient? What would have happened if you had been patient? Why is it important to have patience?
  • Discuss the concept of problem and solution. Provide an example, such as when it rains, I can’t play outside. Write the word Problem on the chalkboard or chart paper and underneath it write the example: It's raining outside. Write the word Solution on the chalkboard and under it the example: Stay inside and build a puzzle.
  • Ask children if they have seen donkeys and zebras. Ask: Where do they live? How are they different? How are they the same? Do zebras look like horses? Tell children that a zebra is a wild animal from Africa. A zebra is similar to a horse except that it is smaller and has black and white stripes on its body. The stripes protect zebras from predators.

Book Walk
Walk children through the story to acquaint them with the characters and setting of the story. As you turn the pages, ask them to look closely at the illustrations and think about what is happening. Pause on some pages to ask if there are questions.

Reading Strategies
Ask children what they do when they come to a tricky word. Ask: Do the pictures help you to understand and read the words? How do you figure out the meaning of a difficult word? Do you sound out the letters? Do you pause on a page and predict what might happen on the next page? Ask children to share what strategies they use and record them on chart paper or the chalkboard. Discuss and check for understanding.

During Reading

Model Reading
  • As you read the story, stop once or twice and invite children to tell you what happened on that page and to predict what will come next. Write the predictions on chart paper. Use a different colored marker (than that used for the first set of predictions). Take only two to three predictions so that children do not lose interest. Tell children that over the course of a few weeks, everyone will have a chance to predict.
  • As you read, pause on unfamiliar vocabulary words. Help children to understand the meaning of each word before moving onto another page. Write the words on the chalkboard or chart paper.
  • Continue to develop an understanding of problem/solution. Ask: Were the donkeys having problems? What were they? What do you think could be done to help solve their problems?
  • At the end of the reading, tell children to look at the two sets of predictions. Compare what they predicted before the story and what they predicted after the story was read. Ask: How were the predictions different and how were they the same?

Student Reading
Distribute How Zebras Got Their Stripes to children. Ask them to read the book, beginning with the cover and title pages. Allow them to read at their own pace. Provide them with hints for solving difficult words. Say: When you come to difficult words, try sounding out the first letter and subsequent letters, and look for picture clues. Say: Ask yourself questions like, Does this passage make sense? Are there words that confuse me? Can I pronounce all the words? Does the word make sense? Monitor their reading and provide prompts as necessary.

Tell children to look for words that describe a person, a place, or thing. These words are called adjectives, for example, on page 6, look for the words soft grass. Soft is an adjective that describes the word, grass. After they have read the story, ask children to go back to the beginning and write the adjectives they found in the story.

To help children comprehend the problem/solution concept of the story, tell them to use the bookmark strategy as they read: bookmark the pages with a post-note where there is a problem, for example, on page 5: "The donkeys carried heavy bundles." At the end of the story, children can look at the problems and at the solution to their problem.

After Reading

Comprehending the Text
Discuss any reading strategies children used to help them solve words or difficult passages or help them to understand the concept of problem/solution (Book Marks). Encourage children to share their strategies and write them on a Strategies I Use chart in the classroom.

Ask children the following questions to check for understanding:
  • Who are the main characters?
  • Where did the story take place?
  • What do you think the donkeys were carrying on their backs?
  • Were the donkeys having any problems? What were they?

Think Aloud, page 8:
e wise man is kind. I think he might be thinking that the donkeys are carrying too much in the bags on their backs. Maybe he’s going to remove one of their bags. What do you think? Let’s find out.
  • Did the wise man have a good solution to the donkeys problems?
  • Where did the donkeys go that did not get painted?
  • Ask children to summarize the story

Problem and Solution
Review problem and solution. Explain that a problem is something that is difficult to deal with or hard to understand and must be worked out or solved, like having a dirty bedroom. A solution is an act or a process of solving a problem, like cleaning your bedroom so you can go outside and ride your bicycle. Continue using events from children’s lives until they have the concept.

Discuss the concept of problem and solution in the story. Write Problems on the left side of the chalkboard and Solutions on the right side. Then ask children to provide what they think are the best solutions.

Problems Solutions
The donkeys carried heavy bundles
The donkeys had no time to play or relax
The donkeys were never appreciated

Ask children if they felt the solution in the story was the best solution or would they have created a different solution. If so, what would it have been?

Visual Learning
Encourage children to notice details in the illustrations for clues about the text. For example:

  • On page 6, ask children to notice the "thinking bubbles." Ask: Why are they on the page?
  • What do they tell you? Do you ever have thinking bubbles? Ask children to explain.
  • Ask children to look at page 7. Ask: How can you tell that the donkeys had
    a problem? (Facial expressions.)
  • How can you tell the zebras were happy?

  • Building Skills

    Long vowel a sound
    Explain to children that the letters ai stand for the long vowel a sound as in the words paint, painted, and maid. Write these words on the chalkboard or chart paper. Then read the words aloud, blending the letters as you run your finger under each letter. Ask one of the children to underline the letters ai. Point to the letters and ask children to say the sound that the letters stand for. Continue by having children generate a list of words containing the a sound. List these words on the chalkboard or chart paper. Ask children to volunteer to circle the letters ai in all the words containing these spellings for the long vowel a sound.

    Word Work
    High Utility Words
    • Explain that the words, to, two, and into are seen many times in our reading and must be memorized because they occur repeatedly throughout all books, and it is easier to memorize them than to sound them out..
    • Write each word on an overhead, chart paper, or chalkboard.
    • Give three cards to each child.
    • Have them copy the words on their cards.
    • Point to the first word, read it, and ask children to read it back to you. Have them find the card on their desk and hold it up for you to see. Repeat with the other two cards.
    • Ask children to make up sentences with the three words. Write them down as they dictate. Have children read the sentences back to you.
    • Ask each child to trace each letter, naming each as they do. Have them say the word. Repeat with each word.

    Syllable Count
    • Write the words donkeys, did, wanted, soft, problem, decided, appreciated, and hard on the overhead, chalkboard, or chart paper.
    • Define what syllables are and explain how they work in words.
    • Slowly read the words did and decided. Ask children if they heard anything different about the words when you said them. Do the same with wanted and soft, appreciated and hard. Say all the words slowly and clap on the syllables. Repeat the words again and ask children to clap on the syllables they hear.
    • Have children provide additional examples: write the words, say the words, clap on the syllables.

    Expand on the Reading

    • Write the words donkeys, did, wanted, soft, problem, decided, appreciated, and hard on the overhead, chalkboard, or chart paper.
    • Define what syllables are and explain how they work in words.
    • Slowly read the words did and decided.
    • Ask children if they heard anything different about the words when you said them.
      Do the same with wanted and soft, appreciated and hard.
    • Say all the words slowly and clap on the syllables.
      Repeat the words again and ask children to clap on the syllables they hear.
    • Have children provide additional examples: write the words, say the words, clap on the syllables.

    Writing Connection
    Make up a class story about a zebra who comes to visit the classroom. What would happen if the zebra wanted to make its home in the principal’s office? Would it be a problem? Write the story on chart paper and hang it on a wall.

    Geography Connection
    What other animals have patterns, such as stripes or spots? See how many the class can name. Invite children to draw or bring in pictures of these animals and label them. Place the pictures on a world map where the animal can be found.

    Reading Independently
    Allow children to read independently or with a partner. When they have completed the book, invite them to look in the library for other books about folktales.

    Home Connection
    Encourage children to read How Zebras Got Their Stripes with someone in their family and share the problems in the story and the wise man’s solution. Then ask children to make a problem/solution chart with a family member. When a problem happens, ask them to record the problem on their chart and then work with a family member to find a solution. For example, not getting out of bed in time for breakfast is a problem. A solution to the problem is to set the alarm clock so they do not oversleep.

    • Monitor children’s responses in the Comprehending the Text section to assess how well they understand the story
    • Monitor reading to see if children are using the effective reading strategies.
    • Observe children as they read aloud in guided reading groups to check for understanding and to observe their use of appropriate reading strategies.
    • Monitor child responses in the Building Skills section: Do they understand the concepts being taught or do they need additional practice and reinforcement?
    • Review Lesson Objectives to check that children have met the projected goals.
    • Check Activity Sheets for accuracy and following directions.

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