Young children love Jan Brett’s retelling of The Mitten. It’s vivid illustrations and rich vocabulary will make it a classroom favorite. Using this book will strengthen your students’ comprehension and writing skills.
Inferring Word Meaning
Teaching your students to use context and illustrations to infer word meanings will help them be better readers and deeper thinkers.
- The Mitten by Jan Brett
- Chart paper and markers
Read the book to the class. After you read it, show the class a list of words from the book that may have unfamiliar meanings, like burrowed, jostled, talons, investigate, drowsy and silhouetted. Tell them that you are going to go back and read these words in the story and try to figure out their meanings.
Find the first word in the text and read the sentences around it. Then “think aloud” to model how to figure out the meaning of the word.
Teacher: “It says that the mole found the mitten and burrowed inside. Then it says that it was cozy and warm and he decided to stay. I think burrowed must be how he went into the mitten. He probably went in like he goes through tunnels underground. I bet he thought the hole in the mitten for your hands was a tunnel and he went right in.”
Point out how the words in the sentences around burrowed helped to figure out what it means.
Model your thinking as you infer the meaning of two or three more words on your list. Be sure to model a word where the illustrations help you find the meaning, like talons. Then have the students help you figure out the next word. If they seem to understand what to do, work together to find a few more meanings. If they aren’t quite getting it, model another word or two and then try again to let them help you.
Have the students work with a partner to figure out the meaning of another word. Have them write it on a piece of paper and listen as you read the text around the word. Then give the students time to write or draw what they think the word means. Share their responses and discuss what helped them figure out the meaning.
Informally assess as the students share their work. Then continue to work on this skill both with the whole class and in small guided reading groups.
Repeat the lesson with a new book, giving the students more responsibility in inferring the meanings. Honey…Honey…Lion! is another fun Jan Brett book to use to teach inference.
Writing With Strong Verbs
Use The Mitten to show your first graders how to write using strong verbs. Teaching your students to use strong verbs is an easy elaboration strategy that they can use when they write.
- The Mitten by Jan Brett
- Chart Paper and markers
- Paper and crayons
After your students are familiar with the book, tell your students that you noticed that each time an animal found the mitten and entered it, Jan Brett used some really interesting action words or verbs. Point out how she could have just said that each animal “went” inside, but that would have gotten kind of boring.
Read the book again and have the children find the different words that she used to tell how the animals entered the mitten. The mole burrowed, the rabbit wiggled, the bear nosed, etc. Make a list of the different words. You can also point out other words in the book that could be substituted for “went” like swooped and lumbered.
Give each student a piece of paper. Tell the students to imagine another animal, like a butterfly or a snake, is going to enter the mitten. Their job is to draw a picture of that animal going into the mitten and write a sentence describing it. The snake slithered into the mitten. The butterfly floated into the mitten. You might want to write the sentence frame on the board to make it easier for them.
“The ________________ _______________ the mitten.”
Let the students share their pictures and add any new strong verbs to your list. Tell them that your are going to be looking for the use of strong verbs in their writing from now on.
Look at their drawings. Did they use strong verbs? New ones? Or words from your list? Notice which students are beginning to pay more attention to word choice when they write in writing workshop.
- Leave the list displayed in the classroom. Make sticky notes available so that the students can add new words to the list as they find them when they are reading other books independently.
- Continue to encourage them to choose interesting words when they write.
- Start another list for words to use instead of “said.”
Using The Mitten will help your students develop into stronger readers and writers as they begin to master new writing techniques and styles and recognize the author’s word craftsmanship.
- Teaching experience.
This post is part of the series: Jan Brett’s “The Mitten”: A First Grade Unit
- Activities for a First Grade Unit on The Mitten by Jan Brett
- Jan Brett’s The Mitten: Language Arts Activities for First Graders
- Teach Inference and Strong Verbs in Writing Using The Mitten