Building Background Knowledge: Introducing Pygmalion | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M2B:U2:L1

Building Background Knowledge: Introducing Pygmalion

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can cite several pieces of text-based evidence to support an analysis of literary text. (RL.7.1)
  • I can select high-quality texts to read independently. (RL.7.11a and b)

Supporting Targets

  • I can build my background knowledge about the setting of the play we will read in this unit.
  • I can make predictions and inferences based on a text.

Ongoing Assessment

  • 3-2-1 Exit ticket


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

     A.  Entry Task: Mystery Quote (8 minutes)

     B.  Introducing Learning Targets (2 minutes)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Gallery Walk: Victorian England (15 minutes)

     B.  Spirit Read (5 minutes)

     C.  Mystery Excerpt from Pygmalion (10 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  3-2-1 Exit Ticket (5 minutes)

4.  Homework

     A.  Read independently for at least 30 minutes.

  • In this lesson, students learn background information about Victorian England and the setting and time period of the play Pygmalion. They then begin to familiarize themselves with the language and the structure of the play, which is the central text of Unit 2.
  • Review the Unit 2 overview. As explained in more detail in that document, Pygmalion is a more complex text than A Long Walk to Water (from Module 1) and also is a play, which has its own specific genre conventions and format. All students, even readers at grade level, will need your support in developing their stamina and independence with complex text during this unit. Consider how your existing routines and class culture around celebrating homework completion and effort might be used to support and encourage students as they read Pygmalion. Be sure to read the text in advance and consider what supports your students will need to understand it. See the Unit 2 Overview for a list of ways to support struggling readers and determine what will be most effective for your students.
  • If students already know the play they will be reading or what it is about due to previous work, this is fine. While the Gallery Walk protocol works as a "mystery," it will also work as simply an engaging introduction to the setting and background culture of the play. In particular, the Entry Task  and Work Time C can still stand as  "mysterious" quotes and excerpts; the mystery will relate then to the content of the play, not the name or basic information of the play. As in Unit 1, the sequence of homework, lessons, and assessments in this unit has been carefully designed to provide appropriate support during class and to make sure that students who are struggling with reading complex text at home will not be unduly disadvantaged on assessments. The sections of the play that students focus on during class are the sections most relevant to assessment tasks.
  • The Reader's Notes that students complete as they read for homework and the daily Checking for Understanding entry task that begins class the next day provide students with structures that help them make meaning of the text and then check to make sure their understanding is accurate.
  • Homework in this lesson is independent reading, which takes place periodically in Unit 2. It is assumed at this point that an independent reading program has been launched before, during, or shortly after Unit 1--see the Unit 1 Overview for details and references.
  • In advance:

-   Print and post the Gallery Walk images and texts.

-   Find 10-12 additional images of Victorian England culture--the streets, people, clothing, food, transportation, etc.); print these and post them around the room.

-   Cut out individual quotation strips from the Quotations from Pygmalion handout (see supporting materials) for the Spirit Read.

-   Review: Gallery Walk and Spirit Read protocols (see Appendix).

  • Post: Learning targets.


crooning; bilious (from entry task)


  • Entry Task: Lesson 1 (one per student)
  • Gallery Walk images and texts (to print and post around room)
  • Predictions note-catcher (one per student)
  • Quotation strips from Pygmalion (one strips per student; see Teaching Notes
  • Mystery excerpt (one per student)
  • 3-2-1 Exit ticket


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Entry Task: Mystery Quote (8 minutes)

  • As students enter the room, distribute the Entry Task: Lesson 1. Ask students to do the following:

*   "Read the quotation below, which is from the next text we will read, and answer the following: What would you guess this text is about?"

  • Direct students to complete the entry task individually and silently, just as they did during Module 1.
  • When students are done, invite them to read the excerpt aloud with an elbow partner and then share what they wrote. Cold call on several to share their answers. Listen for students to say: "This text is about a woman who talks strangely" or "The text is about language and how people should be treated."
  • Prompt students further:

*   "What did the text say that helped you make that prediction?"

  • Ask students to find specific words that stood out to them and serve as clues.
  • Explain that they will continue to build background knowledge as they explore the topics and the language in the text today.
  • Discussing and clarifying the language of learning targets helps build academic vocabulary.

B. Introducing Learning Targets (2 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the learning targets for today. Read them aloud:

*   I can build my background knowledge about the setting of the play Pygmalion.

*   I can make predictions and inferences based on a text.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Gallery Walk: Victorian England (15 minutes)

  • Point out to students that Gallery Walk images and texts are posted around the room. Explain that you will now conduct a silent Gallery Walk and have students make more predictions about the text, including its characters and setting and general topics.
  • Distribute a Predictions Walk note-catcher to each student.
  • Review directions with students:
  1. Please stand up with your note-catcher, a surface to write on, and a writing utensil.
  2. Push in your chair and quietly circulate the room, looking at each posted image or quotation.
  3. Fill in your note-catcher after every two or three stops along the Gallery Walk.
  • Conduct the Gallery Walk for approximately 10 minutes, prompting students to write in their note-catchers every so often.
  • Ask students to return to their seats and share their responses on their note-catchers with an elbow partner. After 1 or 2 minutes, cold call on different pairs to share out what they predicted and what clues they saw in the Gallery Walk.
  • When reviewing graphic organizers or recording forms, consider using a document camera or chart paper to display the document for students who struggle with auditory processing.
  • Consider having a "viewing" station during the Gallery Walk where you show a video of the Cockney accent (such as one featuring Michael Cain) or a scene from My Fair Lady.

B. Spirit Read (5 minutes)

  • Give each student a single strip cut from the quotation strips from Pygmalion.
  • Ask students to bring their quotations with them as they stand in a large circle around the room. Tell them that you will now conduct a Spirit Read in which every student reads his or her quotation out loud, one at a time, in no particular order. Students should try to bring the words to life as much as possible and even read their quotation after a different one that theirs might connect with. A little silence is OK, and students should be careful not to talk over one another. Review the Spirit Read protocol in Appendix A for more suggestions.
  • Begin the Spirit Read and allow time for each student to read his or her quote. When every student has read, tell students that the Spirit Read is over, and ask them to return to their seats.
  • Invite students to discuss further with their seat partner about possible topics and themes that this new book may be about. Ask them to record their thoughts on their Predictions note-catchers. Cold call on some pairs to share out.
  • Remind students that there may be some words within their quotations that they have never seen before. Emphasize that perfect pronunciation is not expected, and that it's OK--even good--if they struggle with pronouncing these difficult, unfamiliar, and somewhat nonsensical words.

C. Mystery Excerpt from Pygmalion

  • Distribute the mystery excerpt to students.
  • Invite students to follow along and listen as you read the excerpt aloud. Try to dramatize the characters by using different voices as much as you are comfortable. The key is to give students an introduction to the characters and topic of the play.
  • After you have read the text aloud, ask students to reread the excerpt in their heads.
  • Ask students to turn to their partner one more time, and again answer the question:

*   "What do you think this text will be about?"

  • Allow students to talk for 2 minutes.
  • Cold call on students for their answers. Write down their suggestions on the board or chart paper, which can be left up for the next class when students officially start the book.
  • Give students who may benefit from additional reading support different colored pens or highlighters so they can mark up the text as they read it in order to help them make predictions.

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. 3-2-1 Exit Ticket (5 minutes)

  • Distribute a 3-2-1 Exit ticket to each student. Ask students to follow the directions on the ticket, writing down three things they noticed about Victorian England from the Gallery Walk, two ideas they have about what Pygmalion might be about, and one question they have.
  • Collect the tickets as students leave the room.
  • You might allow students to take a peek at the images still on the walls from the Gallery Walk to refresh their memories.


  • Read your independent reading book for at least 30 minutes.

 Note: In the next class, students will start reading Pygmalion. Be sure to remind them to bring their copies or have your class set ready.

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