Analyzing Setting, Characterization, and Making Inferences with The Other Side

This week, I want to tell you about my whole group reading lesson. Our focus was on story elements, specifically, the impact of setting on plot, characterization and development, and making inferences. The book, “The Other Side” by Jacqueline Woodson, was a perfect mentor text to model and discuss all of these learning targets, and engage my students in active reading. This is a story of segregation and two young girls, one African-American and one white, who both live on opposite sides of the fence that segregates their town.

Before I began this lesson, my students and I discussed the essential questions and skills that served as the focus for this lesson. I pulled those questions and objectives straight from my reading anchor charts.

Beginning on page 1, Jacqueline Woodson gives just enough information for young readers to infer the time and place (the setting) and dive into a deep discussion about the impact of setting on the plot, including the metaphorical meaning of the fence.

Readers can also track the changes in characters’ feelings, motives and traits throughout this story and dig into the text to discuss author’s language and style to help develop those characters. Clover’s mom says it isn’t safe to cross the fence that segregates their African-American side of town from the white side where Anna lives. But the two girls strike up a friendship, and get around the grown-ups’ rules by sitting on top of the fence together.

Last, using a modeling my thinking style lesson, this book lent excellent text clues to teach students how to stop and monitor comprehension through inferring while reading.

If you’re interested in the questions and discussion prompts I used to drive and prompt my students throughout this lesson, I pulled them directly from my setting, characterization, and inferences anchor charts. You can get those by clicking this link or in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, or by clicking the “shop” tab on my site.

My fifth graders loved this story and were excited to share their own thinking throughout the read aloud. If you haven’t read this or need a book for your fictional story unit, this should definitely be on your list!