What it’s about? Get the full Lesson HERE
The benefits of being an octopus is an inspiring book about personal empowerment and stereotypes as it relates to poverty, class, and those who own guns. It is about the kids who do not do well in school and the reasons why such as having to care for multiple brothers and sisters, not having an adequate food supply, traumatizing experiences, etc. The Benefits of Being an Octopus is an important book that should be taught in all schools.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus. Vocabulary
I start by passing out a vocabulary sheet in which students have the page number and the vocabulary word. Students are to write a simple synonym for the definition. I like to keep definitions as simple as possible because when you use long definitions there is a low chance of student retention.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus. Journal Responses
Second, I have multiple journal responses that I use throughout the unit that are engaging and assess student comprehension.
- Some of the examples are to write a letter to Zoey. Tell her how you are similar or different. Tell her something you admire about her and why. This puts the students through the thought process of what empathy is like.
- Another journal response can be to create a mock interview between yourself Zoey. Create interview questions, practice and be prepared to present in front of the class.
- Students can predict what will happen in the next chapter and craft a chapter from Zoey’s perspective in first person point-of-view. Be prepared to share the chapter with your classmates.
- Or…choose a significant incident in the book and write a journal entry from a character’s point-of-view; example: Zoey, Silas, Fuchsia, Aurora Bryce, Connor, Zoey’s mom, Lenny etc.
- You can ask them If you were given the opportunity to ask the author 5 questions what would they be? Write the questions and explain why you want the answers to these questions.
- To assess setting students can create the setting in a drawing. Be specific with details. It can be the trailer, school, the restaurant, or other location.
- Lastly, possibly draw Zoey and at least one secondary character.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus: Reading Comprehension
- Visualize-I ask students to draw a symbol that best represents the book.
- Summarize-Students will summarize the book, a chapter, or a section of the book.
- Clarify-Students are to analyze where they lack an understanding of the book. They are to ask themselves, what do I need to re-read in order to fully comprehend the material?
- Connect-students ask themselves how the material connects to other material in the book and to other texts they have read.
- Respond-Students analyze how the author uses literary devices in the work and why.
- Question-Students are to make a list of questions they have for the author for further understanding.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus: Costa’s Question Cues
Next I have students create a list of high order thinking questions using Costa’s question cues. Examples of Costa’s question stems:
You can collect these questions and answers and use them for a Socratic Seminar or a four-corner discussion. Pass out a list of the questions for students to work on at home. Have students return with their questions and answers. Elect two leaders to lead the discussion. Remain as an observer and allow for a meaningful discussion about the book.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus: Connections
I like to make connections with the book a step further because of the importance of engaging the students by connecting them with the material. I have students look up quotes of things that happen in the book that remind them of something from their own lives. They write the quote and begin a connection with something like, “This reminds me of a time that….” Students catalogue the quotes and connections as they read through the book.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus: Purpose of Reading
It is important to note the purpose for reading a text. Students are always asking “what is the point of this?” and there is a positive outcome if a teacher takes the time to answer this question. Some purpose of reading questions can be:
- What are the characters’ motives or goals?
- What is the conflict?
- What am I visualizing?
- What is the message the author is trying to convey?
- What mood is the author creating?
- What problem is the character facing?
- How is the plot developing the story?
- Why did the author write this story?
- What themes are addressed in this text?
- What is your emotional response to the text?
Through analyzing and discussing the answers to these questions, you can come to a consensus as to what the purpose is of reading a text-even if it’s just for fun! In the case of the Benefits of Being an Octopus it brings awareness of the adversities of poverty and hopefully changes our views on how one judges another who is stricken with poverty.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus: Sentence Starters
The next assignment I have students complete throughout the reading are using sentence starter cues. Sentence starters help students to analyze their own thinking and wonderment. Some examples of sentence starters are:
- I wonder…
- I was surprised that…
- I don’t really understand…
- I was reminded that…
Some practice with writing an exposition can be done by simply using a statement and backing it up with evidence. For example, if we are to look at the statement, “There should be stricter gun laws in America” then the evidence to back it up can be examples of how guns are misused in the novel, or how guns in the wrong hands can be dangerous or even tragic.
Another assignment worthy of a teacher’s attention is to compare contrast characters physical and emotional descriptions. You can utilize a graphic organizer to effectively organize information.
Close Reading Questions
It is highly effective to take a close reading passage from the book and have students analyze it by answering a list of carefully crafted sentences. A list of close reading sentences can look like this:
- What does this passage mean to you?
- Why do you think it is important to the text as a whole?
- What confuses you about the passage?
- Why is understanding this passage important to your response to the book as a whole?
- How does the passage connect to other ideas in the book?
- How does the author feel about the ideas, characters or events they are presenting?
- Do the characters remind you of anyone else in fiction, history, or anyone else in your life?
- What is revealed about the characters you have read in this passage?
Have Fun With Learning! Roll the Dice Activity
It is crucial that students have some fun while learning. A simple way to create some fun is by creating a “roll the dice” activity sheet. On a sheet of paper create the following activities:
- Paraphrase learned information in one sentence.
- Create a bookmark for today’s learning.
- Write original lyrics to a song that relates to today’s topic.
- Write four what if questions about the topic
- Create vocabulary cards for the five most essential terms
- Write an acrostic poem about the topic
- Write a letter to a family member or friend about the topic
- Create an analogy for today’s topic and an image
- Create a Venn diagram to compare and contrast information
- Summarize what you learned today to three classmates
Have student’s role dice and whichever activity number they land on they will complete as a group. If you only have once set of dice, you can roll for the whole class.
A One-Pager Assignment Project
The purpose of the one-pager assignment is to take a closer look at the novel and analyze its themes, characters, quotes, etc.
The top half should focus on symbolism and themes using words and images. The bottom half should focus on key characters from the text and how they develop.
You may also use other symbols, drawings and words.
The border is themes. Students can get creative and maximize their efforts with a one-pager assessment.
Create a Plot Structure Diagram
Create a plot structure diagram using the mountain analogy with the following:
- Rising action
- Falling action
Students can get a little creative and create a six-panel storyboard where they illustrate and write about a scene. They can also do an extension of a paragraph or the book.
Philosophical Chairs Discussion
Philosophical chair discussions are important in that they not only teach students to take a critical look at a topic, but they learn how to express their opinions and evidence about the topic effectively. A great philosophical chairs discussion topic for this book is gun control. You can state it as, “there should be more laws to control guns”. Have students choose a side, write about their opinions using evidence from the text and share their work in an articulate manner.
A thorough final assessment can be the essay. For this particular book I would do a literary analysis or if you want to extend the philosophical chairs discussion, you can do the same topic such as gun control and write an expository essay.
However, you teach, “The Benefits of Being an Octopus” you are doing your students a service as it is a book worthy of attention and analysis. Get this full lesson in my TpT shop HERE
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